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London Police Pull Plug on International Streaming Pirates

11 Aug, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Seized servers

In a first, London police have arrested three people who are suspected of orchestrating the distribution and transmission of thousands of illegally modified TV set-top boxes worldwide.

Detectives from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit executed a series of dawn raids Aug. 10 at a business and three residential addresses in Chorley, Lancashire. Three men ages 36, 40 and 58 were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences. They are currently in custody pending further investigation.

Officials seized more than 30 servers and set-top boxes, which allegedly had been modified with illegal software to enable them to access hundreds of pay-TV channels, including sports, movies and broadcast TV. An additional 15 satellites also were recovered.

The PIPCU contend the modified servers were sold over the Internet as legitimate home entertainment devices with an annual £400 ($518) license fee attached.

“Our action today will disrupt what we understand to be a significant and highly resourced operation to distribute pirated television on an industrial scale to tens of thousands of people across the globe,” Peter Ratcliffe, head of PIPCU, said in a statement. “Operations like this remain an integral part of protecting livelihoods supported by the entertainment industry and the law-abiding public who pay for their channels with their hard earned cash.”

Authorities say that, unlike with pirated DVDs, consumers who purchase illegal consumer electronics online put themselves at risk from identity theft.

“Illegally modified set-top boxes, along with infringing apps and add-ons, have created new opportunities for criminality and piracy,” Kieron Sharp, director general of the Federation Against Copyright Theft, said in a statement. 

Separately, federal authorities in the United States in July announced the arrest of a Ukraine national charged with owning and operating Kickass Torrents, the world’s highest-traffic illegal file-sharing website, and seized the associated domain names.

Artem Vaulin, 30, of Kharkiv, was arrested on a charge of criminal copyright infringement and held in Poland, pending extradition. Kickass Torrents was responsible for distributing over $1 billion of copyrighted materials, according to the Department of Justice.

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