English Premier League: Three jailed for illegally broadcasting matches

By Jonathan Copping, Lawyer, Stone King, London, UK

The English Premier League has scored a further success in its ongoing battle against illegal streaming of its matches.

On 20 March 2019, three men were jailed for a total of 17 years for providing illegal access to Premier League games to more than 1,000 pubs, clubs and homes in England and Wales.

Following sentencing at Warwick Crown Court, the League released a statement, in which its Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb, stated:

The Premier League’s investment into cutting edge technology, combined with wide-ranging anti-piracy actions such as the one here today and the continuing landmark blocking injunction, means that it has never been more difficult for football piracy to operate in the UK.”

The three men, who were trading under the names, Dreambox, Dreambox TV Limited and Digital Switchover Limited, had earned in excess of £5 million through providing illegal access to Premier League football.

The Court heard that the men used a range of technologies in pursuit of their fraud over the course of a decade, including working with various third parties in the UK and abroad to create illegal broadcast streams, which were then sold on to their customers.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) Director General, Kieron Sharp, stated:

The result of this case demonstrates that the illegal streaming of, and illegal access to, Premier League football is a serious crime. This was a criminal enterprise whose only function was to make money from defrauding the Premier League and the legitimate broadcasters”.

The above Court success is the latest in a long line of successes for the Premier League in its battle against illegal streaming.

In July 2018, the High Court of England and Wales granted the League blocking injunctions against BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media for the 2018/19 season. The effect of these injunctions was to block access to target servers during Premier League matches. The injunctions also enlarged the subset of servers to be blocked and created a requirement to notify hosting providers, subject to a short delay.

The injunctions granted in July 2018 followed similar injunctions for the end of the 2016/17 season and the whole of the 2017/18 season.

It is also expected that the Premier League will obtain a further blocking injunction for the 2018/19 season.

Separately, over the last couple of years, a number of suppliers of ‘Kodi’ boxes have been jailed. The Kodi box enables individuals to watch Premier League football via unauthorised access to Sky Sports, BT Sport and illegal foreign channels.

It is expected that the Premier League will continue with legal action to pursue individuals and organisations that are involved in supplying illegal access to the League’s matches.

Four of the six broadcasting packages for the right to show Premier League matches for the 2019-2022 season were sold for £4.464 billion in 2018, with the final two packages sold later in the year to BT Sport for £90 million and to Amazon at an undisclosed price.

In the light of the mega sums paid for the broadcasting rights, it is right and proper that the Premier League must take all possible action to protect its income stream and its broadcast rights holders!

Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@stoneking.co.uk’