Thousands of people watching free live streams receive police warning threatening arrest

‘People who subscribe to these services might not realise that they are illegal,’ cyber crime unit warns

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 17 December 2020 13:02
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Illegal live streams allowing people to watch football and other sports events for free have proliferated in recent years
Illegal live streams allowing people to watch football and other sports events for free have proliferated in recent years

More than 7,000 people suspected of watching illegal live streams have been issued a warning notice from UK police.

The cease and desist email sent out this week states that anyone consuming pirated content, such as premium TV shows or paywalled sporting events, risks a maximum sentence of up to five years imprisonment.

The police warning is part of a new tactic to crack down on illicit streams by targeting the people consuming them, rather than just the people hosting and supplying them.

“People who subscribe to these services might not realise that they are illegal, but the fact is they are, and we believe that the people who sell them know that,” said Olivia Dodding from the Lancashire Police Cyber Crime Unit.

“What may cost you a relatively small one-off fee, actually results in television producers and sports broadcasters losing millions of pounds which affects their ability to make and show sports events and entertainment series, which many of us enjoy watching.”

The police warnings were sent to people suspected of subscribing to IPTV services through devices like Kodi boxes.

The email addresses of the alleged subscribers were discovered after police searched a property in Lytham in Lancashire, which was suspected to be involved in the distribution of such devices.

A 28-year-old man was arrested and has since been released under investigation. Despite the crack down on consumers of free live streams, no one in the UK has ever received a prison sentence for simply watching pirated content.

The warning notice stated that police would only pursue those who continue to sue the streaming services.

“We are pleased to give our full support to Lancashire Police in sending a really clear message to those choosing to consume content illegally,” said Kieron Sharp, CEO of anti-piracy organisation FACT.

“This is taken very seriously by the police and these notices are a direct and alarming wake up call for people using illegal streams. If you use illegal streaming services you are accountable for your actions and you will be pursued.”

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