Police visit 1,000 homes of people watching online streams in piracy crackdown

Piracy has become a popular way to watch PPV sports events in the UK in recent years  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Piracy has become a popular way to watch PPV sports events in the UK in recent years (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Police in the UK claim to have identified more than 1,000 people accessing illegal online streams following a raid on a major piracy operation.

Officers with West Mercia Police plan to visit homes in order to serve notices to the accused individuals, ordering them to cease illegal streaming activity. It forms part of a broader crackdown on piracy in partnership with the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).

“This operation has involved months of collaborative hard work and the warning notices issued are an excellent example of adopting a multi-agency approach between FACT and the police,” said Jason Grove, who works for the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN).

FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp added that the operation aimed to “ensure that the public are made aware of the dangers of using illegal streaming services and, more importantly, that they understand that there is the risk of criminal prosecution”.

It is illegal to watch pirated streams in the UK, though law enforcement have historically focussed only on those operating the websites and services rather than those watching them.

Criminal prosecution is pending against the operator of the streaming service, which was supplying streams for entertainment and sports via modified set-top boxes, firesticks and online subscriptions.

People accused of viewing the streams were warned in the notice served by police that they risk fines or even imprisonment if found guilty of breaking the law.

In 2021, two individuals in the UK received a prison sentence for watching and providing unauthorised streams.

“We are able to deploy cutting-edge digital tactics to identify and detect people who break the law before carrying out enforcement activity in concert with our partners,” said Detective Inspector Matt McNellis, who works on specialist operations for West Mercia Police.

“Often illegal streaming is used to fund serious organised crime and West Mercia Cybercrime Unit is committed to interdicting this source of criminal revenue and reducing the harm organised crime groups can do to our communities.”