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Spain: 7 football piracy arrests

November 13, 2017

By Colin Mann

Seven people have been arrested across Spain for the illegal broadcasting of football matches, offering the pirated content in different formats: direct download, streaming and P2P distribution.

The arrests were carried out in an operation undertaken by Spain’s Policía Nacional (National Police) in Madrid, Alicante, Albacete, Antequera (Málaga) and in the Valencian cities of Gandía and Xátiva.

The investigation began in 2016 as a result of a complaint signed by the legal representative of the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional (National League of Professional Football) against different websites, for providing indiscriminately in exchange for an economic consideration public access to football matches over which La Liga holds, exclusively, exploitation rights. Broadcasting of such matches is made under a payment service and on a conditional access basis, restricted to be viewed only by the subscribers who have paid to see them.

The first investigations led to the discovery of a total of 13 web pages used to commit the acts of piracy. The portals offered ordered lists of links or links that allowed viewing of the matches.

Access to the matches was widely available to the majority of Internet users, ordered by time and by championships. They also obtained economic benefits by the insertion of advertising in those pages.

The websites were hosted on servers located in France, Spain, the United States and Canada, to try to make it difficult to locate them. They used companies that offer intermediation and server anonymisation services, thus facilitating their impunity. The content was offered in direct download, streaming or in P2P distribution pages, which allowed a greater diffusion.

Similarly, the name of a well-known website, closed in October 2016 as a result of an earlier operation carried out by the National Police, was used in these pages as a claim to attract more users from all over the world and thus increase its economic benefit.

In order to collect the effects and evidence of the crime, agents carried out eight house searches in the cities of Madrid, Alicante, Albacete, in the Valencian municipalities of Xátiva, Villalonga and Gandía and in the town of Campillos (Málaga).

These actions progressed when those responsible were working on the web pages under investigation, which allowed investigators to verify, in situ, the commission of the crime and collect multiple physical, digital and documentary evidence of the illicit gains obtained as a result.

Thanks to the operation, seven people were arrested, with access to seven infringing web domains and three bank accounts, where the proceeds of the criminal activity were deposited, being blocked. It is estimated that they could have obtained an economic benefit of approximately €1.4 million, both for the inclusion of advertising in the investigated portals and for television distribution with payment by subscription.

The investigation continues with the analysis of the multitude of effects obtained, with further arrests and site-blocking requests not ruled out.

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