Four arrests in UK crackdown on online piracy

Four people have been arrested after a series of raids across the UK as part of a crackdown on the supply of illegal streaming services supported by media and entertainment company Sky.

Officers from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police searched four premises in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stoke and four people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the illegal streaming of premium content, including Sky channels.

Computer equipment, laptops and phones were also seized in the operation, which is estimated to have provided illegal access to content to around half a million customers across the UK.

Pirated content services are generally provided though illegal streaming boxes and apps, which lack parental controls. In some cases, boxes have been shown to fail safety standards.

In addition to the arrests, more than 200 ‘cease and desist’ notices were delivered to individuals suspected of running illegal streaming services around the country. The notices instruct those running the services to immediately cease all streaming activity.

One person has been charged in relation to intellectual property theft and three people have since been released under investigation.

Sky’s director of anti-piracy, Matt Hibbert, said the operation had made “a significant impact against individuals involved in serious organised crime,” adding: “more and more effective action is being taken against the criminals behind big piracy operations and we thank PIPCU and all the police forces involved.

“This type of action helps protect consumers from the very real risks associated with piracy, such as malware, fraud and identity theft.”

Recent research, which analysed 50 popular illegal streaming sites, found that all contained malicious content, while over 40 per cent of them did not have a security certificate.

Half of all people who illegally stream in the UK say they or someone they know have been a victim of scams, ID theft, fraud or data loss as a result, and 41 per cent have been exposed to inappropriate content.

According to the UK government, the creative industry that produces music, films, TV and sport provides employment for more than 1.9 million people and contributes £84.1bn (around $101bn) to the UK economy. It also says that buying and using illegal devices and apps directly funds organised crime.

In January, police and representatives from intellectual property group FACT visited homes across the UK, serving notices to individuals to cease illegal streaming activities with immediate effect and informing users of the associated risks, which include criminal prosecution.

In 2021, for example, two individuals – Paul Faulkner and Stephen Millington – were sentenced to a total of 16 months in prison for watching unauthorised streams.

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