You can make a decent amount of money by selling pirate Internet Protocol television (IPTV) subscriptions. Still, you always risk attracting the wrong kind of attention. The Federation Against Copyright Theft says that this week, notices to stop stealing were delivered to the homes of several unlucky pirates in the UK. Unpleasant? Maybe. But better than the alternatives.
Once upon a time, most theft and fakery involved physical goods. Even movies couldn’t be traded without first being recorded onto an analog videotape or, more recently, optical media.
Nowadays, everything is done online. A movie is just another file that can be quietly downloaded. The days of buying hacked satellite cards from tiny ads in computer magazines are long gone. With a web browser and patience, even newbies can get a pirate IPTV subscription up and running in no time. But for many, it’s even more accessible.
In 2022, many people will hear about these subscriptions from friends or through the wonders of social media. On Facebook, it’s easy to find sellers who are either utterly unaware of the risks or don’t care about them.
The problem is that this crime is considered illegal fraud. Despite low odds, a criminal conviction can affect the life of a few. Most rightsholders and police seem to get it.
The rise of the “knock-and-warn”
The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) launched another wave of enforcement action in the UK. They were against people accused of offering illicit IPTV subscriptions.
FACT teamed up with officers from the West Midlands and Warwickshire Police. Instead of kicking doors off their hinges at 5:00 a.m., they took a more thoughtful approach to put an end to crime.
Investigators and police officers went to homes in Alcester, Solihull, and Birmingham and handed out “cease-and-desist” notices. These notices told suspects to stop doing anything illegal immediately or face more severe consequences.
This may be a bad experience for those served. Still, compared to the alternatives, which include a criminal prosecution by the police or a private prosecution by FACT, a simple promise not to keep breaking the law is a simple “get out of jail free” card.
Cease-and-Desist Notices Are More Common in Fraud Cases
Documents seen by TorrentFreak show that police forces in the UK agree that cease-and-desist notices are not much more than a tool in an administrative process. But if they are sent out the right way, the fact that a notice has been sent can be used as proof in a criminal case or even a civil case.
Some forces believe their responses to alleged fraud crimes are based on common sense and that collaborating with partners (like FACT) is often the best approach to stop crimes. But there are more factors. Police consider the crime’s severity, resources, and the possibility of a conviction.
The FACT Approach is Reportedly Successful
According to the Intellectual Property Office’s IP Crime and Enforcement Report 2020-21 (pdf), FACT operations mostly go after lower-level criminals who sell piracy-related set-top boxes and IPTV subscriptions on social media.
FACT said they had a 90% success rate in the year covered by the report. They sent out 84 “cease and desist” notices, and 70 people who broke the law followed them to the letter. At the time, 14 cases were still being looked into, and FACT said that in some cases, prosecutions could happen.
From that report, the image below shows where notices were sent in 2020-21.
The people being watched this week live in the area marked “West Midlands,” which is just below the “clear danger” areas of Cheshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire, to the right.
FACT works with the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) to gather information on suspects. They think the warning process was suitable for those targeted this week.
“This latest action targeted individuals who were promoting unauthorized access to premium television content, which affects broadcasters and rights owners in the UK and worldwide, causing financial harm to the industry and the economy,” FACT’s statement reads.
“Whilst all the individuals visited were operating at a relatively low level, the objective was to prevent them from undertaking further criminal activity, and to deter others from getting involved.”
FACT says that further actions of similar nature are planned to take place throughout 2022.