A landmark court order has been passed in the fight against illegal streaming, which many do through Internet Protocol television (IPTV) using jailbroken streaming devices such as Amazon’s Fire Stick.

It means that those using such illicit services can be tracked and traced before being slapped with substantial fines for not paying for services that themselves pay to host the content being watched.

The top flight Spanish football league, La Liga, is behind the move with a judge approving it in Barcelona’s Commercial Court number eight. It grants the football league four ways to trace you if you stream its content.

Questions are now being asked as to whether the Premier League will follow suit in its fight against piracy.

The league did not officially comment when approached by LADbible, instead drawing reference to policies already in place to combat the issue with those Premier League content without paying for services that host the games.

In the UK, that is a mix of Amazon’s Prime Video, Sky Sports, and TNT Sports.

Premier League’s history of battling piracy

Watching football for free when people should be paying isn’t a new phenomenon and goes back to the growth of peer-to-peer (P2P) software like LimeWire and BitTorrent.

Ever since then, the Premier League has been fighting against unauthorised streaming whether that’s via websites hosting streams for free or subscription services and devices.

Nowadays, the league has a dedicated legal team who, alongside technical experts and private investigators, will target people watching via the likes of IPTV. The team works out of two offices; one in London and the other in Singapore.

Working with piracy specialists, the league will work with broadcasters of its football matches in the fight against those watching without paying.

Premier League logo.

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Five ways the Premier League tackles IPTV and streaming

  • Deploying world-leading technology to identify, verify (via digital fingerprinting) and disrupt infringing live streams during match-times;
  • Engaging with online platforms used for piracy, including social media companies and search engines, to improve their copyright protection policies, prevent infringing content being uploaded and immediately removing illegal streams found on them;
  • Pursuing deterrent legal actions to bring criminals (like those involved in the recent Flawless prosecution) to justice and to demonstrate to pirate suppliers and users that piracy is illegal and treated very seriously by the police and courts;
  • Engaging with lawmakers’ around the world to try and ensure that developments in pirate technology do not out-pace the law and that sufficient tools are in place to allow legitimate content owners to protect their rights; and
  • Developing educational initiatives to raise awareness of the threats and dangers associated with piracy.
Streaming sport is illegal if you do it via IPTV.

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Premier League ‘blocking orders’ – what are they?

Since March 2017, the Premier League has been operating what are called ‘Blocking Orders’ obtained from the UK High Court.

This requires Internet Service Providers to block access to illegal live streams in real-time, during matches. These have been regularly enhanced to address evasion methods deployed by pirate operators.

As technology is constantly being developed and the pirates are becoming more sophisticated, it is vital we protect the sensitive details of how our blocking works. This need for sensitivity was recognised by the UK High Court, which ordered our work to be kept under lock and key through a confidential Court Order.

During Season 2022/23, the UK blocking order helped to block or remove over 600,000 illegal live streams.

The Premier League shuts down streams during live games.

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The most high profile case of the Premier League convicting someone behind IPTV is the ‘Flawless’ case which the league believes is the world’s largest ever prosecution of a pirate network.

In October last year, Steven Mills, 58, was sent down following a joint investigation by the Premier League, West Mercia Police, and anti-piracy organisation FACT.

Mills, from Shrewsbury, had been running an organisation selling what it called ‘fire sticks’ via a closed Facebook group.

It claimed to have more than 30,000 subscribers.

In June last year, Mills pleaded guilty to multiple fraud offences at Shrewsbury Crown Court and was jailed for two and a half years in the winter.

He was also convicted of a separate offence for watching the illegal content that he was supplying to others, with the court recognising that his own use of the unauthorised service was a distinct crime in itself.

Mills received a separate prison sentence for this offence.

Watching the Premier League via IPTV is illegal.

Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The service provided customers with a bespoke app and streaming devices, including ‘fire sticks’, to view a wide range of sport and entertainment content.

Mills took significant steps to disguise his activity from detection including posting bundles of cash to suppliers and operating under a number of aliases.

In his sentencing remarks the judge in the case commented on the sophistication of the operation. The judge highlighted the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and recorded tutorial videos which supported his customers to access the illegal content.

Trading under the names Pikabox and Eyepeeteevee, the organisation received more than £1 million in five years. The service was primarily provided to UK-based customers and was also sold to a network of resellers, who are currently under investigation.

Featured Image Credit: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images/Getty Stock Images

Topics: Premier League, Football, Sport, Crime, TV and Film, Amazon, Amazon Prime, UK News, World News, Technology

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