In many parts of the world, football – or soccer as some prefer to call it – is the number one spectator sport.
The English Premier League, widely regarded as one of the top competitions, draws hundreds of millions of viewers per year. Many of these pay for access to the matches, but there’s also a massive circuit of unauthorized streams.
In recent years the League has worked hard to decrease the availability of these live streams, which isn’t an easy feat. It has been a driving force behind criminal prosecutions, pursued dynamic blocking orders in court, and issued many takedown notices.
In the latest IP Crime and Enforcement Report, published by the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office, the Premier League provides an overview of some of its key achievements over the past 12 months. These are the results of what the organization describes as a “multi-faceted” anti-piracy approach.
One of the key pillars of the anti-piracy drive is to reduce the availability of online streams and clips. This worked quite well, apparently, with the League reporting hundreds of thousands of removed or blocked live streams and other video content.
“In Season 2018/19 the Premier League removed or blocked over 210,000 live streams and over 360,000 clips of its matches that would otherwise have been available to view in the UK,” the report reads.
The dynamic blocking injunctions issued against UK ISPs are also listed as successes. With these, the Premier League can provide Internet providers with continuously updated lists of live streaming sources that need to be blocked during Premier League matches.
Another major achievement, which thus far hasn’t been publicized, is the Premier League’s involvement in the demise of the popular live stream subreddit ‘Soccerstreams’, which had over 420,000 subscribers. This subreddit was effectively shut down by its operators in January due to an increasing number of complaints.
Initially, the operators banned all user submissions, planning to use the subreddit for news announcements. However, not much later Reddit pulled it offline permanently for violating its repeat infringer policy.
Apparently, the Premier League was one of the main complainants, as the Soccerstreams ‘shutdown’ is listed among the organization’s largest successes of the past year. According to the report, the football league worked “with Reddit to close its ‘soccerstreams’ thread”
A similar victory was booked against another popular streaming site, Ronaldo7.net. While the site is still up and running, the Premier League notes that it previously secured the removal of all its content.
Offline there was progress made as well. According to the League, it conducted over 6,000 investigative visits to pubs, clubs, and other commercial venues where its content was displayed. This helped to prevent an unspecified number of illegal broadcasts.
The biggest success in court this year came from a criminal prosecution. Together with FACT, the Premier League went after three men who sold pirate IPTV subscriptions to more than 1,000 pubs, clubs and homes throughout England and Wales.
Following a four-week trial against the “Dreambox” defendants, the private prosecution resulted in prison sentences ranging from three years and three months to seven years and four months.
The same prosecution is also highlighted in a FACT case study in the same ‘IP Crime and Enforcement Report’. This overview ends with a strong focus on press coverage and the associated “advertising” value of the prosecutions.
“This result gathered worldwide media interest. It was mentioned in a total of 51 articles in no less than 16 countries worldwide, reaching a potential worldwide audience of over 165 million people. A BBC News article (pictured) had the largest reach, with a potential 35 million readers.
“The advertising value equivalent for the press received is estimated at over £1.5 million,” the FACT case study adds.
The comparison with advertising value may seem odd in this context, but it makes sense. The goal of prosecutions of this nature is not just to stop the infringing activities. FACT and the Premier League also want to send a clear message to other people participating in similar businesses, hoping they will stop.
While there are still plenty of pirate streaming operations online, the Premier League’s overview shows that the organization is taking the issue rather seriously. As such, it will likely continue in the same steps in the new season.