With the rise of programmable set-top boxes, companies have sprung up all over the UK to fulfil demand, with millions of devices now in the hands of the public.
Directed by Norfolk man Glenn Burrows, Ooberstick Ltd was incorporated in February 2016 and was set up to sell relatively expensive devices containing a custom build of Kodi and various addons. TF was previously informed these boxes were shipped out only partly configured, with customers required to complete the final install themselves.
A second company, Oober Media Ltd, was incorporated by Burrows during October 2016. Together with Oobersticks, the businesses amassed thousands of customers.
However, on Tuesday 13 December 2016, Burrows and business associate Darren Wicks of Wiltshire were arrested. A source who requested anonymity told TF that around six officers and a Sky representative were present during the 7:20am raid.
Both men were released on police bail with Burrows informing TF that he believed his business was legal.
“I was running a successful business which was both VAT registered in the U.K. and with Worldpay as my payment merchant. For me to get both of those, those parties have to be sure that what I was doing was legal,” he said.
Several months later, however, the position changed. On September 7, 2017, at Norwich Crown Court, Burrows pleaded guilty to intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an offense, along with a money laundering offense. On May 17, 2018, at the same court, Darren Wicks pleaded guilty to intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an offense.
Last Friday, both appeared before Norwich Crown Court for sentencing.
He was also made subject to a Serious Crime Prevention Order which prevents him from selling products online for five years. He’s now required to notify police of his online usernames and identities.
Wicks, 45, of Chippenham in Wiltshire, was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years. He must also carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.
“I hope these sentences send a clear message that the use of illicit streaming devices to watch content without the copyright owner’s permission is illegal,” says Detective Sergeant Samantha Shevlin of the Norfolk and Suffolk Police Cyber Crime Unit.
“The sale of these boxes has a huge effect on the content owners, broadcasters and the wider public who will end up paying the price for others’ dishonesty. The message really is that simple – devices like this or using one at home to watch content you normally would pay for is breaking the law.”
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing for Burrows will take place in due course. In the meantime, both of his companies have been resigned to history, with Ooberstick Ltd having been dissolved during January 2018 and Oober Media Ltd shut down in March 2018. Neither company ever filed any accounts.