Two suppliers of Kodi-type illegal devices have each been jailed for four and half years in Newcastle Crown Court in the northwest of England after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.
John Dodds and Jason Richards sold hundreds of devices that enabled their customers to view Premier League football via unauthorised access to Sky Sports, BT Sport and illegal foreign channels. In doing so they defrauded the Premier League and Sky and BT. They also ripped off customers who were regularly left with devices that had their broadcast signal interrupted or didn’t work properly. Their criminal activity saw them fraudulently earn at least £1.5 million (€1.71m) through the sale of the illegal devices and other equipment. This will now be subject to confiscation proceedings.
Dodds, who has a previous conviction for threatening a Sky employee, attempted to prevent evidence being discovered by hiding the keys to a car full of equipment and documentation, including a list of all his clients, several streets away from his home.
Richards attempted to conceal evidence just before being arrested by destroying hard drives and hiding information in his deep freezer. This led to a conviction for attempting to pervert the course of justice in addition to his conspiracy to defraud offence.
The pair were arrested following an investigation instigated by the Premier League and UK intellectual property protection body FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft). A range of North East bodies, including North East GAIN (Government Agency Intelligence Network) and The National Trading Standards Regional investigation team, played key supporting roles in the investigation. The case was prosecuted on behalf of the Premier League by David Groome and Ari Alibhai of QEB Hollis Whiteman Chambers.
“This is a hugely significant judgment as it provides further evidence that selling these devices is illegal and can result in a prison sentence,” noted Kevin Plumb, Premier League Director of Legal Services. “We have seen several reports from people who have purchased illicit streaming devices only to be left with no service when the seller is forced to cease trading because the law has caught up with them, or their broadcast signal has been interrupted by our enforcement measures. We hope this verdict gets the message out that selling or using these devices is simply not worth the risk.
“The many things fans enjoy about the Premier League – the ability that clubs have to develop and acquire talented players, to build and improve stadiums, and to support communities and schools – is all predicated on being able to market, sell and protect rights. We are pleased the Courts have recognised that in this case.”
“This result is an excellent example of how serious an issue illegal streaming is,” added Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT. “TV boxes and sticks that allow consumers to illegally stream sports, such as Premier League matches, not only have a huge effect on the content owners and broadcasters but the thousands of people working tirelessly behind the scenes to put the sport on our screens.”
“This is no longer a grey area – selling devices like this or using one at home to watch content you normally would pay for is breaking the law. This sentencing should send out a very clear and strong message to anyone involved in the sale of these devices that it is very much illegal and that they risk spending time behind bars.”
The Premier League is currently engaged in a comprehensive copyright protection programme that has included obtaining a High Court Order that compels the UK’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block illegal streams of its content, and led to a seller of illicit streaming devices based in Nottingham being jailed for four years. The League’s activity in this area is not restricted to the UK and has included shutting down an illegal ISP in Spain and working with Thai authorities to bust a large-scale supply of illicit streaming devices across South East Asia.
The UK Government – via the Intellectual Property Office – provided guidance in November 2017 stating that the use of illicit streaming devices is illegal.