More and more people are starting to use “fully-loaded” set-top boxes to stream video content directly to their TVs.
Although the media players themselves can be used for perfectly legal means, third-party add-ons turn them into pirate machines, providing access to movies, TV-shows and IPTV channels.
Over the past several years, there has been little enforcement effort on this front. However, this changed earlier this year, when the European Court of Justice ruled that selling devices pre-configured to obtain copyright-infringing content is illegal.
The hardware can still be sold and media player software such as Kodi is legal too, but vendors who ship boxes with pirate add-ons could get a letter or visit from rightsholders. Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN is particularly active on this front and has convinced hundreds of sellers to clean up shop.
One of these vendors, located in The Hague, recently promised that it would stop offering these boxes. However, BREIN discovered that while the pirate media players disappeared from the online store, they were still sold in the bricks-and-mortar store.
The anti-piracy group obviously wasn’t happy with this and reported the shop owner to the local police, who went in and confiscated 245 “pirate” media players a few days ago.
“We summoned this merchant to stop but, despite his promise to do so, he continued. We have therefore reported it to the police. These players cause great damage because people no longer pay for the movies and series they watch,” BREIN director Tim Kuik says.
It is now up to the authorities to determine if any further action is needed. BREIN expects that the prosecutor’s office will try to settle the case with a fine, but if the vendor refuses to pay it may also lead to a prosecution. At the same time, BREIN also has the option to file a civil case.
Although BREIN’s actions usually don’t result in criminal prosecutions, the anti-piracy group continues to pressure people who are involved in selling and developing these platforms. Ultimately, they hope that this will deter others from getting involved.
Earlier this year the Motion Picture Association described pirate media players as a major threat, dubbing them “Piracy 3.0.” While this threat is far from over, it has definitely become riskier for people to get involved in developing and selling these boxes.