While the majority appears to do so with impunity, a growing number of UK providers are finding that their businesses attract the attention of rightsholders who are keen to send a message that they won’t be tolerated.
The latest case involves John Haggerty and wife Mary Josephine Gilfillan, who together ran Evolution Trading Company Limited, a business venture registered at their former home address.
Incorporated in December 2013 for the stated purpose of “wholesale of coffee, tea, cocoa and spices”, Evolution was used in connection with Haggerty’s business of selling Kodi-based set-top boxes, some of which were loaded with an illicit IPTV service.
“Stop paying for sky high satellite or cable bills. Never buy or rent another DVD again! With Stream Box you can view any movie from the very latest blockbuster to your all time favorites,” some of Haggerty’s original marketing reads.
“Watch any box set or TV Series ever made or ever will be made! Watch tons of sports and hundreds of other TV channels from all over the world ALL FOR FREE.
“We consider Stream Box the future of TV viewing, with Stream box connected to your broadband Internet and your HD TV you can stream any film or TV show ever shown – all totally free.”
Following an investigation by the Federation Against Copyright Theft, searches were carried out at various premises connected with Haggerty. Like many of these kinds of cases, it’s taken a very long time to come to court, but now it has, it’s ended badly for the pair.
According to prosecutors, the business ran from March 2013 to July 2015, during which time at least £764,000 was generated from the sale of set-top boxes, carried out from a shop and online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.
The court heard the devices would be sold for between £75 and £100 to the public and £400 to pubs, although searches reveal them changing hands for as little as £52. The IPTV service provided with some of the boxes, Infusum.tv, was created by Haggerty and sold for £15 per month. The marketing image below shows that football fans were a major target.
According to prosecutors, the operation meant that broadcasters including Sky and BT Sport faced potential losses of £4m per year while using the devices in pubs exposed licensees to the risk of prosecution.
Chronicle Live reports that Haggerty had several passports in different names, and set up a company in Nevis to hide the true purpose of his business. Along with his wife, he also supplied the UK Immigration Service with false documents to sponsor an Egyptian national who was put in charge of the streaming service.
All things considered, 57-year-old Haggerty was jailed for five years and three months for conspiracy to defraud. His wife, 54, who the court accepted had played a minor role, was handed a two-year sentence suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.
“This was a very sophisticated fraud perpetrated primarily by you, John Haggerty,” said Judge Simon Batiste.
“You sold 8,000 set top boxes and started services including streaming services, you created an application to enable other devices to access the stream you created. In particular devices permitted users to view all Premier League matches and films, some of which hadn’t even been released in the cinema.”
The sentencing of the pair was welcomed by Premier League director of legal services, Kevin Plumb.
“This case demonstrates how seriously the courts are dealing with criminals involved in the supply of illicit streaming devices and services that provide illegal access to Premier League football and other popular content,” Plumb said.