Police Say “Criminal Gangs” Are Selling Pirate Media Players

A seminar hosted at the Scottish Police College has heard how 'criminal gangs' have entered the IPTV and so-called 'Kodi box' market. Those in attendance, including Trading Standards, HM Revenue & Customs and the UK Intellectual Property Office, were informed that this kind of piracy has increased by 143% in the past year alone and is now considered an emerging threat by police.

For the millions of purist ‘pirates’ out there, obtaining free content online is a puzzle to be solved at home. Discovering the best sites, services, and tools is all part of the challenge and in order to keep things tidy, these should come at no cost too.

But for every self-sufficient pirate, there are dozens of other individuals who prefer not to get into the nuts and bolts of the activity but still want to enjoy the content on offer. It is these people that are reportedly fueling a new crime wave sweeping the streets, from the United States, through Europe, and beyond.

IPTV – whether that’s a modified Kodi setup or a subscription service – is now considered by stakeholders to be a major piracy threat and when people choose to buy ready-built devices, they are increasingly enriching “criminal gangs” who have moved in to make money from the phenomenon.

That’s the claim from Police Scotland, who yesterday held a seminar at Scottish Police College to discuss emerging threats in intellectual property crime. The event was attended by experts from across Europe, including stakeholders, Trading Standards, HM Revenue & Customs, and the UK Intellectual Property Office.

“The illegal use of Internet protocol television has risen by 143% in the past year and is predominantly being carried out online. This involves the uploading of streams, server hosting and sales of pre-configured devices,” Scottish Police said in a statement.

The conference was billed as an “opportunity to share ideas, knowledge and investigative techniques” that address this booming area of intellectual property infringement, increasingly being exploited by people looking to make a quick buck. The organized sale of Android-style set-top boxes pre-configured for piracy is being seen as a prime example.

In addition to eBay and Amazon sales, hundreds of adverts are being placed both online and in traditional papers by people selling devices already setup with Kodi and the necessary addons.

“Crime groups and criminals around Scotland are diversifying into what’s seen as less risk areas,” Chief Inspector Mark Leonard explains.

It goes without saying that both police and copyright holders are alarmed by the rise in sales of these devices. However, even the people who help to keep the ‘pirate’ addons maintained and circulated have a problem with it too.

“In my opinion, the type of people attracted to selling something like a preloaded Kodi box aren’t very educated and generally lean towards crooked or criminal activity,” Eleazar of the hugely popular TVAddons repository informs TorrentFreak.

“These box sellers bring people to our community who should never have used Kodi in the first place, people who feel they are owed something, people who see Kodi only as a piracy tool, and people who don’t have the technical aptitude to maintain their Kodi device themselves.”

But for sellers of these devices, that’s exactly why they exist – to help out people who would otherwise struggle to get a Kodi-enabled box up and running. However, there are clear signs that these sellers are feeling the heat and slowly getting the message that their activities could attract police attention.

On several occasions TorrentFreak has contacted major sellers of these devices for comment but none wish to go on the record. Smaller operators, such as those selling a few boxes on eBay, are equally cautious. One individual, who is already on police radar, insists that it’s not his fault that business is booming.

“Sky and the Premier League charge too much. It’s that simple,” he told TF.

“Your average John gives you a few quid and takes [the device] and plugs it in. Job done. How is that different from getting a mate to do it for you, apart from the drink?”

To some extent, Internet piracy has traditionally been viewed as a somewhat ‘geeky’ activity, carried out by the tech-savvy individual with a little know-how. However, the shift from the bedroom to the living room – fueled by box suppliers – has introduced a whole new audience to the activity.

“This is now seen as being normalized,” says Chief Inspector Mark Leonard.

“A family will sit and watch one of these IPTV devices. There’s also a public perception that this is a commodity which is victimless. Prevention is a big part of this so we need to change attitudes and behaviours of people that this damages the creative industries in Scotland as well.”

As things stand, everything points to the controversy over these devices being set to continue. Despite being under attack from all sides, their convenience and bargain-basement pricing means they will remain a hit with fans. This is one piracy battle set to rage for some time.

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