Sky Asked Govt. to Target Pirate IPTV Resellers via New Dedicated Police Unit

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The chief executive of Sky TV in Ireland met with a government minister in May 2023 requesting the formation of a "dedicated anti-piracy unit" to crack down on the sale of pirate IPTV subscriptions. Correspondence seen by local media indicates that Sky advised that "at least two detectives" would be needed to tackle dozens of subscription resellers across Ireland.

gardaWhile the continued proliferation of cheap albeit illegal pirate IPTV subscriptions is a problem for Sky, the broadcaster’s engagement with governments suggests that allocation of public crime-fighting resources would make things more manageable.

A public/private partnership featuring Sky and police forces across England has seen significant resources deployed to tackle various players in the IPTV ecosystem. Sky provides police forces with leads and supporting evidence and, if all goes to plan, suspects are arrested and processed through the criminal legal system.

Arrests like these are often publicized by the police, which adds weight to Sky’s public messaging; the ‘BeStreamWise’ campaign currently seen on billboards in Ireland is a current example.

Billboard photographed in Ireland by a Reddit userbestreamwise-ireland-reddit

A report published yesterday by Irish Independent (paywall) suggests that after persuading authorities in England to allocate law enforcement resources, Sky would ideally like the Irish government to follow suit.

Sky Ireland Chief Executive Officer Met With Enterprise Minister

The Irish Independent’s report cites correspondence revealing a meeting last May between Sky Ireland Chief Executive Officer JD Buckley and Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney.

Alongside trading issues related to Brexit and EU law, Sky reportedly asked the government to set up a “dedicated anti-piracy garda unit” (a reference to Ireland’s National Police and Security Service) to tackle the illicit pirate IPTV subscription/device market, colloquially known as “dodgy boxes.”

Who requested the meeting and where it was held are details absent from the report. However, public records reveal that Minister Coveney traveled to Sky’s offices five months ago where he had a meeting with Mr Buckley and Stephen van Rooyen, Chief Executive Officer Sky UK and Ireland and Group Chief Commercial Officer.

A public post on LinkedIn thanks Minister Coveney for visiting Sky’s office where “a number of Sky priorities for the year ahead” were discussed.

Sky Followed-Up on Piracy Discussion

How the Independent was able to review the correspondence isn’t clear, but the proposals themselves are presented in considerable detail. It appears that Sky wants to tackle IPTV subscription resellers; in other words, the people most often in direct contact with the public.

“There are dozens of such resellers across Ireland and it is these cases we really want to focus on, as taking out these significant suppliers will cause significant disruption and highlight to end-users the risks and illegality of piracy,” Mr Buckley said.

“I would appreciate if you could speak to your cabinet colleague in the Department of Justice to see if resourcing of this area is possible. We at Sky are of course available to discuss how we can support this objective.”

The Department of Justice said it had “no engagement” on the matters raised by Sky, the Independent reports, and the deployment of garda resources was a matter for Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. For unconnected reasons, Harris currently has other things on his mind.

An RTE report published yesterday revealed that an increasing number of gardaí are resigning from the job because of “low morale, bullying and unfair treatment, and work-related stress.” RTE reports that so far this year, 106 gardaí have left their jobs, a figure that matches departures for the whole of 2022.

Garda Siochäna Already Works With Industry

In a statement the Garda Síochána, Ireland’s national police and security service, said that it already works with industry and service providers to tackle illicit streaming, noting that money-laundering offenses and the freezing of accounts form part of their work.

Back in March, for example, warnings were issued to people suspected of providing access to illicit streams in the counties of Mayo, Limerick, Meath, Offaly, Dublin, Wexford, Cork, Wicklow, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Kildare, and Donegal.

This operation also appears to have focused on IPTV subscription resellers so, at least at face value, Sky appears to be seeking law enforcement resources to do more of the same.

Resellers are an important part of the pirate IPTV ecosystem. They supply large numbers of subscriptions to the public and in some cases to lower-tier resellers. More often than not, however, they are at least one and potentially many more steps away from those actually providing the streams. In layman’s terms, this strategy targets the ‘warehouses’ to prevent supplies from reaching the ‘retail’ end of the market, but in itself does little to halt the supply of streams.

That being said, resellers may also possess a different type of ‘intellectual property’ considered particularly useful to rightsholders. And who better to extract that proprietary information than those with the power of arrest, directly supported by those ultimately pulling the strings.


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