After years of criticism, earlier this year the US Trade Representative removed Switzerland from its annual piracy “Watch List.”
The development came as a direct result of the country’s revised copyright law which introduced a “stay down” policy for infringing content while allowing rightsholders to track pirates.
Downloading pirated movies and music for personal use remained legal, but offering such content to the public is a different matter.
Criminal Complaint Filed By Canal+ and NAGRA
According to a joint release by Canal+ and Kudelski-owned anti-piracy outfit NAGRA, an IPTV service based in the Lake Geneva area of Switzerland has been shut down in a first-of-its-kind operation after the companies made a criminal complaint regarding content piracy.
KBoxServ reportedly provided access to more than 77,000 TV episodes and 7,000 movies via pre-configured set-top boxes, sold via retail outlets in Switzerland and France for the equivalent of US$160. The enforcement action was carried out by the Vaud Police with the assistance of Europol and Eurojust, the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation.
As the image above shows, the KboxServ domain (KBoxServ.com) now shows a seizure notice listing the various other agencies involved in the action, which include the tax authorities.
Three Suspects Arrested, Bank Accounts Seized
Europol states that the content served to KBoxServ customers was located on servers around Europe, including locally in Switzerland, plus France, Germany and the Netherlands. Officers carried out nine house searches across these countries, plus Monaco, arresting three suspects and seizing eight bank accounts in Switzerland.
“According to the first elements of the investigation, around 20,000 boxes have been sold, the payments for which were made via regular gateways and payment systems. The sale and distribution of these boxes has generated a turnover of about €1.9 million,” a Europol statement reads.
“Europol supported the action day with the deployment of two virtual mobile offices. These enabled Europol’s experts to cross-check operational information in real time and provide support to the investigators in the field.”
KBoxServ Had Relatively Humble Beginnings
Interesting information not mentioned by Europol includes the origins of the KBoxServ service. Running since at least 2015 (an interview at the time suggested 2013), the product was created by Samuel Loche, the founder of local IT company Koalito.
Initially sold as a stand-alone device with no subscription, KboxServ devices were and still are Android-based set-top boxes configured to receive video content from sources on the Internet. Five years ago, however, KBoxServ devices appear to have obtained content in a much more basic fashion.
“In fact, it’s quite simple,” Loche revealed. “We are going to dig into Rapidshare or Mega databases, for example. We carry out sorting to select the best sources. Then we make these links available to our customers via the box.”
At least at the time, Loche said that the company hosted no files itself and its devices simply acted as a “gateway for the user”. On this basis the service was legal, he said, noting that around 600 to 800 devices had been sold.
“We are constantly working to update the list of links and keep the catalog as up-to-date as possible,” he said.
Indeed, the involvement of Koalito in KBoxServ appears to have continued over the past five years. The service’s now-seized website displayed Koalito’s logo in the footer before it was taken down and even today, Koalito’s own website boasts that, among other projects, it was responsible for the KBoxServ VOD streaming platform.