A BBC TV programme has captured criminal gangs on film offering the public pirated pay-TV services for a fraction of the official fees. Fraudsters were caught on camera selling modified set-top boxes which could access top-level BSkyB packages for as little as £10 a month instead of the correct £80. The amount of piracy could have an impact as serious as that suffered by the music industry, says an expert in copyright law.
The BBC team filmed a Venezuelan dish installer operating from South London selling hacked boxes, he admitted: “Yes, of course it’s illegal – you’re getting something for free that you should be paying for. You can buy the box and it shows you all the Sky channels for one year.” He claimed to have 150 customers generating £20,000 a year in income.
Another retailer, operating from a shop in Upton Park, a London suburb, is filmed selling ‘SkyBox’ devices for a flat fee of £150 which permitted viewers access to all of the Sky channels.
Keith Cottenden, forensic services director at computer crime investigation company Cy4or, said during the BBC programme that here were some areas in the UK where those hacking satellite TV outnumber viewers paying for it legitimately. “Some of the stats don’t make good reading for the providers. Within the urban areas, it’s widespread – most cities have a wide network of people doing this.”
The BBC film crew accompanied a special unit of the City of London Police during a raid in Liverpool, on the alleged the ring-leader of supplying boxes throughout the UK.
Luke McDonagh, an expert in copyright law at Cardiff University, told the BBC: “The problem is there, it’s getting more widespread and the big broadcasters are trying to cut down on it by targeting the criminal enterprises that are running these pirated systems. But it’s very difficult to crack down on the use of cracked decoders by consumers – so many people are doing it, it is becoming the norm. If it continues then we may see the broadcasters having to change their model like the music industry has with things like Spotify – it could become that wide-scale.”