Jail term for illegal sports broadcaster

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A man from Norwich in the East Anglia region of the UK has been sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for selling illegal TV devices and for re-offending, since being prosecuted and sentenced for the same crime in October 2016.

William Marston, who traded as ‘Billie the Bookie’, appeared at Norwich Crown Court on May 4th 2018 after pleading guilty to selling unauthorised decoders, in contravention of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Marston had previously been handed a 12-month sentence suspended for two years at Norwich Crown Court on October 28th 2016, after admitting to selling unauthorised decoders adapted to enable access to encrypted transmissions between December 2013 and April 2016.

However, in early 2017 investigators from pro-copyright body The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) discovered that Marston was still offending and breaching the terms of his sentence.

Despite his previous conviction, Marston had continued to advertise and sell unauthorised decoders that allowed illegal access to sports content such as horse and greyhound racing, aimed at the online and retail betting markets. Previously, Marston had operated openly online selling illegal set-top boxes via eBay. After his first conviction, however, he resumed his activities using more sophisticated technology and also attempting to avoid detection by selling via private Facebook groups.

A second investigation was launched by FACT and Norfolk Police and on August 8th 2017. Marston was re-arrested at his home in Norwich where he had installed multiple satellite dishes in his garden.

He was summonsed to appear on 14th February 2018 and pleaded guilty on March 28th 2018.

On May 4th 2018 at Norwich Crown Court, in sentencing Marston, His Honour Judge Moore commented that: “The gambling industry requires tight regulation, and legitimate organisations who subscribe to SIS pay taxes and contribute to the Levy – your actions undermine the whole system”. The judge noted that Marston had completed the six-month curfew element of his previous sentence without breach which justified the two-month reduction of the original 12 months.

Marston will be facing confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act for his first offence.

“This result is an excellent example of how serious issue illegal streaming is,” declared Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT. “Whether it’s a re-stream on social media, a piracy site, or using a device, box or stick connected to your TV, avoiding the official provider to access content is illegal.”

“FACT is leading the way in combatting digital piracy and working with the betting industry to crack down on these types of offences and to hold those behind them accountable for their actions.”

“We are very pleased that Marston has once again been brought to justice and that a custodial sentence has been imposed,” added Kevin Smith, General Counsel of SIS. “We are particularly gratified that the court recognised that Marston’s actions undermined the entire system of how betting is licensed and racing is funded, and that the sentence highlights that fact that the courts are prepared to treat copyright infringement as theft.

“SIS has an obligation to its customers and rights holders alike to ensure that the value of content remains undiluted, and will not hesitate to prosecute offenders in the future.”


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