Recent successful raids by Hong Kong Customs on suppliers of a pirate TV box service should serve as a warning to all potential consumers of unauthorised TV services, according to Asia’s pay-TV association, CASBAA. “Buying a dodgy TV box is a bad deal for consumers,” said CASBAA’s Chief Policy Officer John Medeiros. “The content is being illegally supplied and the signal is subject to interruption at any time.”
CASBAA suggests that “artful” sales approaches imply to consumers that the services on the box could be legal, and that they will last indefinitely. Consumers may even be told they are buying a year-long subscription. In fact, said CASBAA, there is no guarantee of quality or continuity for programmes supplied via pirate media boxes. “Apart from the usual signal quality uncertainties of Internet transmission, the content stream can be terminated suddenly,” said CASBAA CEO Christopher Slaughter, “whether by law enforcement action – as in the recent Hong Kong case – or through the upstream intervention of content owners.”
In the Hong Kong case, Customs authorities raided four residential premises, a warehouse and a commercial electronics stall, arresting nine people who are suspected to have conspired with others to operate an illegal ‘circumvention’ business; to access pay-TV content illegally and distribute it around the world via the Internet, for payment.
“We congratulate Customs on this enforcement action,” said Medeiros. “They uncovered a criminal fact pattern and acted upon it decisively.” But he said there is an important lesson for consumers as well as potential criminals: “Dodgy boxes give dodgy results,” said Medeiros. “They are bad for consumers and bad for the creative industries. Only the criminal syndicates reap benefits – until they get caught.” As the boxes are a growing problem, industry players expect to work diligently with enforcement agencies to combat their supply and use.
CASBAA urged consumers to acquire their TV from legal sources, and noted that purchasing and using some boxes could even engage the consumer in illegal acts, depending on the internal workings of the box. According to CASBAA, the best guarantee of legality is to subscribe to authorised TV services that provide high-quality programme signals. Holders of authorised pay-TV licenses in Hong Kong are Hong Kong Cable TV, PCCW/now TV, and TVB Network Vision.