In July 2019, investigators from UK intellectual property protection organisation FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) and UK law enforcement agencies attended sixteen premises across the UK serving Cease and Desist notices to individuals suspected of supplying illegal sports streaming content.
The initiative was a collaboration between the Premier League and FACT aimed at preventing the illegal supply of sports streams in the UK and globally ahead of the 2019-20 football season.
FACT works with the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) to gather intelligence on and disrupt organised crime groups (OCGs) associated with this illegal activity. With the support of the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) Disruption Teams, this latest activity targeted suspects operating who were found to be promoting unauthorised access to premium television content, which affects broadcasters and rights owners in the UK and worldwide causing financial harm to the industry and the economy. Whilst all the individuals visited were operating at a relatively low level, the initiative was aimed at preventing them from undertaking further criminal activity and deterring others from getting involved.
The initiative highlights the effective partnership between law enforcement agencies and the private sector allowing for co-ordinated regional and national action. The intelligence has been shared amongst a number of agencies and public bodies including HMRC and the Intellectual Property Office. Further actions of a similar nature are planned.
FACT and the Premier League will continue to monitor any ongoing offending and will escalate enforcement activity for persistent offenders.
This action follows a series of successful prosecutions by FACT working with the Premier League. In March 2019, three sellers of illegal streaming devices from a pirate streaming organisation were given a combined total of 17 years imprisonment for defrauding the Premier League, some of the longest sentences for piracy-related crimes.
“This is just one of the tactics we deploy against people committing offences that affect sports rights holders and broadcasters,” advised Kieron Sharp, FACT Chief Executive. “We have a programme of continuous activity targeting different elements of the global piracy landscape, with consideration given to the scale of the offending so that the most effective and proportionate response is deployed.”
“The message is clear. If you are involved in any way in providing illegal streaming services, on any scale, you are not invisible or immune from action from FACT, rights owners and law enforcement.”
“We would like to thank all the police units and the GAIN for their assistance in this successful initiative and look forward to further collaboration in the future.”
“The GAIN is a collaboration of government agencies and other partner agencies who identify opportunities to make it harder for organised criminals to operate, added National GAIN Coordinator Lesley Donovan. “Our multi-agency disruption activities are aimed at taking away their means to do so, and ultimately preventing them from committing the crimes that harm our communities.”
“In this case, these Cease and Desist notices intend to highlight the real harm those trying to make a quick buck out of illegal streaming are inflicting. Their actions are feeding a wider illicit industry which not only denies the economy of millions both in copyright theft and undeclared income but poses a direct risk to our communities due to their lack of parental controls and fire safety. This type of activity is also often a cog in a larger criminal machine, often ultimately funding drugs, weapons and people trafficking.”