£250K fine in ‘Kodi box’ case

A man in the northeast England city of Hartlepool who sold illegal Internet TV boxes that allowed pubs and clubs to screen pay-to-view TV free of charge has received a suspended prison sentence and been ordered to pay £250,000 (€289,000).

Malcolm Mayes received a ten-month prison sentence suspended for one year when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court Monday March 6th and admitted breaching the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 by advertising and selling adapted IPTV boxes.

He was also ordered to pay costs of £170,000 and a Proceeds of Crime Order was made against him for a further £80,000.

IPTV boxes – sometimes called ‘Android’ boxes or ‘Kodi’ boxes – allow users to watch television and movies streamed via the Internet. The boxes themselves are not illegal, but when modified can be used to view content freely that should otherwise be paid for, including live sport and new movies. A box modified in this way is often described as being ‘fully loaded’.

Mayes was prosecuted by Hartlepool Borough Council’s Trading Standards department following a lengthy international investigation by the National Trading Standards North East Enforcement Team.

He was found to have been selling IPTV boxes to pubs and clubs around the country for around £1000 each, targeting them through adverts in a national magazine which claimed his devices were ‘100% legal’. Following a test purchase, a suspect device was analysed and found to have been adapted.

“The cost of this case has been significant to Mr Mayes,” stated Ian Harrison, Trading Standards & Licensing Manager for Hartlepool Borough Council. “In pleading guilty, he has accepted that it is illegal to sell a device that allows the free viewing of pay-to-view television. This is common sense and should be obvious to anyone. Mr Mayes should not be seen as a Robin Hood-type character. In selling these devices he wasn’t stealing from the rich to help the poor. He was stealing to make himself richer,” declared Harrison.

“In addition, many of the pubs and clubs that bought his devices lost significant amounts of money when they failed to operate as promised.”

“Trading Standards will continue to target those traders and individuals who make their living from selling counterfeit goods or in other ways allow intellectual property to be stolen.”

Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Mr Mayes knowingly sold these illegal boxes which breached copyright law, misleading small businesses by falsely claiming that these devices were legal. I hope this conviction sends a clear message that criminal activity doesn’t pay.”

“I would also warn any person or business selling or operating such a device that they are in breach of copyright law. National Trading Standards will continue to protect legitimate business and pursue those who breach copyright in this way.”

Kieron Sharp, Director General of intellectual property protection organisation FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft), added: “Today’s sentencing sends out a strong message to anyone involved in the sale of illegal IPTV boxes that crime certainly does not pay.”

“Pre-configured TV set-top devices allowing access to premium pay-for channels without a legitimate subscription are illegal and we would like to thank Hartlepool Trading Standards for their action on this case following a referral from the Premier League and FACT.”

“FACT will continue to work with our members, Trading Standards and police across the country to combat the sale of these illegal devices, which are starving our creative industries and the UK Economy.”

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