Police Make New Pirate IPTV Arrest as Public Criticism Over Priorities Persists

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UK police are reporting yet another pirate IPTV-related arrest. A warrant was executed at a flat in Nottingham where a 42-year-old was detained on suspicion of offenses related to the provision of pirated Sky broadcasts. For deterrent purposes, both the police and Sky want reports like this to reach the public, and that is being achieved. The response, however, is one of almost universal criticism, on grounds that in many cases have little or nothing to do with piracy.

police-skyOver several years but much more intensively during the last 18 months, police in the UK have warned that those involved in the supply and sale of pirate IPTV streams will face the consequences.

Whether any suppliers of significance took those threats seriously is difficult to say, but a noticeable increase in reported arrests recently suggests that police are responding as promised. News this week concerning a previously convicted pirate suggests that law enforcement agencies are also working to ensure that those found guilty aren’t allowed to simply disappear when it’s payback time.

Extradition For Convicted Pirate

Between 2014 and 2017, Michael Hornung supplied around 2,700 set-top boxes that provided unauthorized access to subscription broadcasters’ content. An investigation led to a private criminal prosecution by FACT, who called on lawyer Ari Alibhai, the UK’s leading expert in piracy-related private prosecutions, to do the honors.

Skipping bail is generally ill-advised but faced with a private prosecution, the worst possible scenario for any IPTV pirate in the UK, Hornung failing to answer his bail in March 2020 hardly came as a surprise.

While still hiding out in Northern Cyprus to avoid extradition back to the UK, in June 2022 Hornung was found guilty in his absence. He was sentenced to four and half years in prison for causing a potential loss of £2m to broadcasters, while generating £350,000 in fraudulent income, around £258,000 of which is payable back to the state under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

As reported this week by FACT and the National Crime Agency, Hornung was arrested in Cyprus on June 2 and after a hearing there, agreed to be extradited back to the UK. For jumping bail he received an additional 12-week jail sentence, and he still has to pay back the £258,000. The sum is already long overdue and in the event of non-payment, Hornung could face an additional three years in prison.

Promised Arrests Keep Coming

In addition to Hornung, we believe that at least three other men prosecuted in separate IPTV cases disappeared rather than face the music in the UK.

And let’s not forget, a single prosecution put five men behind bars for over 30 years in 2023; deterrent messaging doesn’t get any better than that. Yet still the arrests keep on coming, including that of a 52-year-old man from Stockton-on-Tees recently, to a background of a school headteacher being sent to prison in the West Midlands.

And There’s More

Adding to the overall total, police and broadcaster Sky have a just announced yet another IPTV-related arrest, after officers executed a warrant at a flat in Queen Street, Nottingham.

Police say that on June 11, a 42-year-old man allegedly involved “in the provision of illegal streams of Sky television content,” was arrested under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Computer Misuse Act, and the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, before being released on bail while investigations continue.

Credit: Nottingham Policenotts-arrest-iptv

As is customary in these cases, Matt Hibbert, Group Director of Anti-Piracy at Sky, thanked the police for their work.

“We’d like to thank Nottinghamshire Police’s Cyber Crime Team for taking this strong action against illegal streaming operators,” Hibbert said.

“We will continue to support law enforcement to protect our content, tackle illegal streaming, and help keep consumers safe from the risks illegal streaming can pose.”

But while Sky says it wants to keep consumers safe, what qualifies as safe for members of the public seems to diverge quite considerably from whatever Sky has in mind.

Policing Isn’t a Popularity Contest….

While it’s possible to assess sentiment across social media posts, social media users tend to group around certain topics which can lead to bias. In this case the discussion takes place on police social media accounts where piracy-related matters represent a tiny minority.

Since last year, those behind the BeStreamWise anti-piracy campaign operated by Sky have made extensive use of social media to press home the message that illegal streaming is dangerous, due to malware and other ‘hidden dangers’. Cast the net a little further and people appear to have other things on their minds.

What’s immediately evident when police forces announce this type of action is the wall-to-wall criticism that appears under those posts on police social media accounts. As one might expect, pirates tend not to enjoy services being shut down. However, it’s clear that most complaints have little or even nothing to do with piracy.

In this case, the comments appear to show regular members of the public, expressing frustrations over perceived prioritization of one type of crime, in favor of a foreign-owned corporation (Sky is owned by U.S. company Comcast), when there are no resources available to tackle serious local crime, affecting ordinary local people.

sky-iptvcomments-1

Whether any, all, or none of these comments are accurate or even a reasonable assessment of the reality on the ground, is neither here nor there.

What matters is the belief and how that manifests itself when faced with anti-piracy campaigns and pleas to pay for content instead of pirating it. It’s hard to imagine any scenario where the current mindset would prove beneficial.

Policing Isn’t a Popularity Contest….

From posts like this on Facebook, to others on Twitter/X (and more or less anywhere else these stories appear), people are overwhelmingly opposed to the allocation of precious enforcement resources to assist corporations, when the people whose taxes actually fund the police continue to be underserved.

Obviously the traditional complaints, concerning pricing and the need to buy multiple subscriptions to get just a part of the content, are persistent. However, they only represent just a small part of the overall commentary which is overwhelmingly critical of the police and the allocation of resources.

sky-iptvcomments-2

In one form or another, the police have heard this all before. With limited resources available, various groups will always jostle for position to protect their own interests.

Unfortunately, without public support this campaign and others like it are even less likely to succeed. (More public comments on X here)

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