Anoyone running a significant pirate IPTV operation in the UK, especially one that supplies sports content, runs the risk of being targeted by the Premier League and anti-piracy partners Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).
The pair have been involved in a number of criminal prosecutions of illicit TV suppliers over the years and today brings news of yet another conviction.
The target in this matter was a man called Paul Faulkner. He was reportedly the operator of TV Solutions, a pirate streaming service that offered illegal access to sports and entertainment content, including live Premier League matches and Sky channels.
This resulted in a joint investigation by the Premier League and FACT, which determined that Faulkner was selling access to his service on social media platforms and using the money generated as a second source of income. The Premier League then brought a private criminal prosecution to bring Faulkner before the courts.
Faulkner Pleads Guilty and is Sentenced
According to the Premier League, Faulkner pleaded guilty to multiple copyright infringement and fraud offenses and eventually appeared in front of Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday.
He was jailed for a total of 16 months, not only for supplying the service to customers but also for watching it himself.
“Mr Faulkner pleaded guilty to both the unlawful supply of content and his own use of the service to view content he should have been paying to watch,” the Premier League says.
“The judge recognized that Faulkner’s use of the unauthorized service was a distinct crime in itself. This was reflected in him receiving a separate sentence of four months’ imprisonment for using the service.”
Also of interest is the Premier League’s reference to VPNs in respect of this case.
“Despite the defendant selling access to his service on social media platforms as a secondary source of income, the judge made it clear this case was a sophisticated fraud carried out over a significant period of time, made more serious by the involvement of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs),” the football group notes.
No Surprise That Watching Streams and VPNs Are Highlighted
While tracking down and prosecuting IPTV providers is an important part of the Premier League’s strategy, it also faces problems when it comes to deterring the general public from buying these packages and being able to successfully use them on match days.
Until 2017, it was widely believed that simply watching pirated streams wasn’t an offense in the EU. Indeed, in 2016 the EU Commission claimed that the act wasn’t illegal, a position supported by Trading Standards in the UK. However, the ‘Filmspeler’ decision removed all doubt, concluding that selling boxes and streaming pirated content amounted to copyright infringement.
The mention that Faulkner received a four-month sentence for viewing illegal streams on his own service is meant as a clear signal to pirate IPTV buyers that they too could receive a similar sentence. While that could and should act as a deterrent, it should be noted that the Court may have taken Faulkner’s wider offending into consideration when handing down what appears to be a very stiff sentence.
The other issue faced by the Premier League is the effectiveness of its ISP blocking program. Just last month the football group obtained yet another blocking injunction in Ireland, one that’s even more stringent than the last. However, this can be circumvented in seconds with the use of a VPN.
The exact circumstances of Faulkner’s use or promotion of VPNs aren’t made clear by the Premier League but by mentioning the technology as an aggravating factor in his case, there’s clearly an effort to portray these circumvention devices as problematic, not only for IPTV providers but users too.