The huge increase in popularity of piracy-configured set-top boxes has been nothing short of amazing over the past 18 months.
According to numerous reports, their use has become somewhat of an epidemic in Europe, prompting concern from anti-piracy organizations across the continent.
One group at the forefront is Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, who took a case against a seller of ‘pirate’ boxes all the way to the European Court of Justice – and won.
Handed down in April, the decision concluded that selling devices pre-configured for piracy (such as those loaded with Kodi and third-party addons) is illegal under EU law.
While news of the decision was never likely to reach all sellers of ‘pirate’ boxes, those under the impression that sales occupied some kind of gray area were quickly corrected. That resulted in some sellers exiting the market and others changing the way they operate, such as selling boxes blank and expecting users to configure them themselves.
Due to the locality of the original case, sellers in the Netherlands were always likely to feel the impact of the ECJ ruling most initially, particularly with BREIN breathing down their collective necks. That has just been effectively confirmed by the anti-piracy group, with the news that around 200 ‘pirate’ media player sellers have ceased trading since the decision.
“This is a mixture of individuals and companies,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak.
Kuik says that the sales were taking place via dedicated websites, online stores such as Amazon and eBay, plus social platforms including Facebook.
In an indication of how much in demand the devices are, the BREIN chief says that most of the sellers sold nothing else but ‘pirate’ boxes, to sustain a business or bring in some extra cash for the entrepreneurial individual.
Kuik says that 150 out of the 200 entities were contacted directly by BREIN, who advised them to stop what they’re doing to avoid things getting out of hand.
“Typically we send an explanatory letter with a cease and desist undertaking. Everyone gets the opportunity to settle. Most take it,” Kuik says.
Of course, others choose not to comply with BREIN’s demands, so for them, things have the potential to get more expensive and complicated, given the right conditions.
“We have now entered a phase in which willful infringement is assumed and this means no more warnings. If no settlement is reached the case will go to court. We have a couple of court cases under preparation,” Kuik explains.
This could mean a contested court case, which following the ECJ ruling is likely to end badly for anyone selling boxes filled with pirate addons. That being said, settling with BREIN can be expensive too.
“Providers who settle with BREIN pay up to 10,000 euros. Those who continue can count on a multiple of that. There’s a raw deal for those who think they’ll just get a warning. That time is now over.”
For those who ignore BREIN’s overtures and threats of legal action, there’s also the possibility of a case going ahead without them even being there.
“Under certain circumstances, an ex parte court order may be applied for,” Kuik concludes.
While the legality of such devices now seems completely clear in the EU, the market is yet to settle. Given past innovations, it’s more than likely that new avenues will open up to re-test the law to a new breaking point – and beyond.