The boxes were designed to receive services such as BeIN Sports in the UK without a legitimate subscription. This gave buyers access to live sport including Premier League games. After a multi-agency law enforcement operation, the seller has been given a two year sentence.
Law enforcement agencies say they are continuing to monitor eBay and other websites for such devices. Suppliers, operators and consumers of these devices face legal action.
Mr Fuaad Al-Saegh was handed a two-year custodial sentence, suspended for two years, at Southwark Crown Court following an investigation started by City of Westminster Council in 2017. As part of their investigation, Trading Standards officers covertly purchased three of these devices which were retailing at £150-£250.
Westminster City Council were assisted in their investigation by FACT, the UK’s leading intellectual property organisation. FACT provided intelligence on Mr Al-Saegh’s internet activity and examined the IPTV devices obtained by the council to ascertain the extent of copyright infringement. Upon inspection, the devices were found to allow the viewing of beIN Sports content without a legitimate subscription and a large number of films which were made available without permission of the rights’ holders.
A raid was undertaken on the suspect’s home address with assistance from FACT and the National Crime Agency. Further devices were found at the premises. Investigating officers, working closely with eBay, established the defendant had sold 628 devices for more than £82,000.
On 11 August 2021, Mr Al-Saegh pleaded guilty to four offences under the Fraud Act 2006.
FACT CEO Kieron Sharp added:
This is an important conviction for Westminster City Council’s Trading Standards team who took on this prosecution against an individual who defrauded the broadcast and film industries for his own gain. FACT will continue to monitor platforms used to advertise, market, sell and distribute apps, devices and streams, to take action against suppliers, operators and consumers.
Ebay and other websites continue to offer numerous IPTV boxes for sale, promising to offer access to various channels around the world. To avoid detection, they will often avoid mentioning specific broadcasters. Often, buyers are invited to contact the seller using WhatsApp to set up a ‘trial’ of the service. Broadcasters will only purchase rights for specific geographic areas and distribution channels from rights holders – such as sports organisations and film studios. Anyone trying to circumvent restrictions may find themselves facing copyright infringement action by the relevant rights holder.
BeIN Sports is particularly affected by piracy, from both individuals and rogue states. The sports network holds the rights to numerous football leagues, including the Premier League and Champions League. This makes its live content highly desirable. As a result of piracy, the broadcaster frequently watermarks its live sports coverage with moving logos.