Two men have been jailed for four and a half years each, for selling hundreds of “Kodi-type” illegal streaming devices.
John Dodds and Jason Richards, who were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, were sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court this week. Between 2009 and 2016, they sold piracy-configured media players to more than 270 pubs and clubs in the North-East of England, making over £1.5 million in the process.
These devices − commonly known as Kodi boxes, as they often come pre-loaded with Kodi and a range of pirate addons − enabled customers to watch Premier League games and other Sky Sports and BT Sport sporting coverage illegally.
Dodds and Richards conducted their illegal trade under the names Johnsat, Network Communications (North East) Limited, Full Effect HD Sports, and Creative Electronics.
They were arrested following an investigation that was instigated by the Premier League. It also involved the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), North East GAIN and National Trading Standards.
“This is a hugely significant judgment as it provides further evidence that selling these devices is illegal and can result in a prison sentence,” said Kevin Plumb, the Premier League’s director of legal services.
“We have seen several reports from people who have purchased illicit streaming devices only to be left with no service when the seller is forced to cease trading because the law has caught up with them, or their broadcast signal has been interrupted by our enforcement measures. We hope this verdict gets the message out that selling or using these devices is simply not worth the risk.
“The many things fans enjoy about the Premier League – the ability that clubs have to develop and acquire talented players, to build and improve stadiums, and to support communities and schools – is all predicated on being able to market, sell and protect rights. We are pleased the Courts have recognised that in this case.”
The Premier League and UEFA recently obtained injunctions against illegal online football streams, meaning that UK ISPs are now required to crack down on pirate Premier League, Champions League and Europa League feeds, to make it harder for people to tune in free of charge.
According to FACT, this is “the highest sentence” that has been handed out so far for this type of criminality.
“Business was popular as it was focused on supplying commercial premises such as pubs at a fraction of the legitimate business rate,” the organisation told Trusted Reviews. “They were supplying nearly 300 commercial premises in North East. They also provided 3pm Saturday kick-offs, which are illegal to broadcast in the UK.”
FACT says it will work closely with the Premier League, BT Sport and Sky Sports, to identify any premises that have been broadcasting content without an active legal subscription, and will “consider action” where appropriate.
In the last two years, FACT says, it has collaborated with Sky on almost 100 cases involving illegal broadcasting in commercial premises, which have resulted in fines amounting to more than £300,000.
“This result is an excellent example of how serious an issue illegal streaming is. TV boxes and sticks that allow consumers to illegally stream sports, such as Premier League matches, not only have a huge effect on the content owners and broadcasters but the thousands of people working tirelessly behind the scenes to put the sport on our screens,” said the CEO of FACT, Kieron Sharp.
“This is no longer a grey area – selling devices like this or using one at home to watch content you normally would pay for is breaking the law. This sentencing should send out a very clear and strong message to anyone involved in the sale of these devices that it is very much illegal and that they risk spending time behind bars.”
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