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Police warn of illegal streaming dangers as Premier League returns

Brits have been warned against using pirate streams by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and IP protection body FACT.

With the English Premier League now back underway, PIPCU has issued a statement to highlight the risks that users put themselves at when they participate in the practice of illegal streaming.

It highlighted that three individuals had been jailed for a combined total of 17 years for defrauding the Premier League by providing illegal access to the English football competition’s matches to more than 1,000 pubs, clubs, and homes throughout England and Wales. In “some of the longest sentences ever issued for piracy-related crimes”, Steven King, 50, from Coventry was sentenced to seven years and four months’ imprisonment; Paul Rolston, 53, from Coventry, received a sentence of six years and four months; and Daniel Malone, 41, from Coventry, a sentence of three years and three months.

In addition, Mark Schofield, based in Radcliffe, recently was convicted of costing broadcaster Sky £1 million through the sale of illegal streaming devices (ISDs). He avoided jail, but in pleading guilty to offences of copyright infringement and fraud, Schofield was handed a two year suspended sentence with 200 hours of unpaid community service.

Further afield, Europol earlier this month shut down a global piracy network with more than two million paying subscribers, while Spanish football league La Liga scored victory over three piracy sites in Moscow’s City Court.

DCI Nick Court, head of PIPCU, said: “Not only is it illegal to stream matches without paying for them, but it’s also unreliable and risky. You never know what malware is in the stream you are using and what damage it is doing to your device. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies and legitimate providers can shut illegal sites down during the match, often at a crucial point, to dissuade people from using these sites in the future. By using official providers these risks can easily be avoided. Remember – watch it live, watch it legally.”

This comes at a time where, according to research carried out for technology firm Synamedia by Ampere Analysis, over half of sports fans in 10 countries watch pirated services at least once a month. According to the report, while 89% of sports fans have a payTV or subscription OTT service, 51% still watch pirate sports services at least once a month.

It is possible that many of these illegal streams are of matches which are not broadcast in England, such as those played during the Saturday 3pm blackout window.

However, this will not be a problem for the remainder of the the EPL season where all of the remaining games will be broadcast live – including almost half being shown for free.

Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT said: “It’s completely understandable that when the current Premier League season restarts, demand to watch the matches will be extremely high. However, it’s essential to remember that the only legal way of watching Premier League matches, and any other content, is through the official providers.

“We encourage everyone to watch only via official providers as this doesn’t only guarantee that you’re not breaking the law but also guarantees that you’re not putting yourself and your family at risk of malware and inappropriate content.”