Today there are thousands of sites offering huge libraries of unauthorized content, all of it available via a YouTube-like interface accessible via any Internet browser. With a non-existent learning curve, it’s piracy anyone can get involved in.
As a result these kinds of sites can quickly gain a massive following and efforts to hinder their operations continue every day. With millions of links being removed from search engines and site-blocking a regular occurrence, other more aggressive options are also regularly explored.
Currently that is the stance of prosecutors in Rome, Italy, who say they have carried out a large operation to shut down a network of sites offering live sports events, movies, TV shows and concerts without permission from copyright holders.
Titled Operation Match Off 2.0, the action was carried out by the Comando Unità Speciali (Special Command Unit) of the Guardia di Finanza (GdF), a department under Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance tasked with dealing with financial crime.
According to GdF the operation targeted 50 sites running on 41 servers located on three continents. Three servers were seized locally in Italy. After raids were carried out in a number of regions across the country, five suspects were detained. Further details on the sites and the suspects are yet to be released.
The sites are said to have offered live streaming of sports, on-demand content such as movies and TV shows, plus scheduling features in return for a ten euro payment per month. Italian authorities say the equivalent official offering would cost nearer 100 euros.
GdF report that the five suspects had built of a “vast network” of users and were generating huge profits from them.
“To understand the scope of the operation we detected the presence of more than 340,000 registered users within a community,” GdF said in a statement.
“Assuming that everyone had an illegal ‘subscription’, you can, with a simple calculation, estimate that the turnover is nearly €3,500,000 monthly ($3.89m), or more than €40,000,000 ($44.46) per year.”
Should they be found guilty, the five suspects would face fines and up to four years in prison.