Is your IPTV box "legit"?

Posted by Ben Evans on
Back in November we reported on the case of Football Association Premier League Limited v Luxton [2016] EWCA Civ 1097 which involved a pub landlord being sued for copyright infringement by the FAPL.

The landlord had used a domestic decoder card, provided by a Danish broadcaster, to show Premier League matches in his pub. The FAPL was successful and the judgment focussed on, in particular, the fact that Mr Luxton used a domestic card rather than a commercial card.

More recently that has been a move away from using foreign decoder cards to show such matches and, instead, landlords are increasingly using Internet TV boxes 'IPTV' which includes the popular 'Kodi' boxes. These boxes allow users to stream content from services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as to access movies and premium sports channels. Whilst the technology itself is certainly not illegal it is often sold 'fully loaded' which means that that box has had various additional applications installed on it to allow them to access material for which they do not have consent (and thus infringe copyright).

Earlier this week the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) put out a press release about the case of Mr Malcolm Mayes. Mr Mayes has admitted breaching the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 by advertising and selling such 'fully loaded' IPTV boxes. In particular Mr Mayes had been selling the boxes to pubs and clubs around the country for a fee of around £1,000 per box. The boxes were advertised in national media and claimed to be "100% legit". Having first come to the attention of the FAPL due to the fact that the boxes were being used by pubs to screen Premier League matches, the matter was then passed on to Hartlepool Trading Standards who brought the case against Mr Mayes. Appearing at Teeside Crown Court on 06 March 2017 Mr Mayes was handed a suspended prison sentence as well as being ordered to pay costs of £170,000 with a Proceeds of Crime Order made against him for £80,000.

The lesson to be learnt from this case is that if it seems too god to be true then it probably is! Whilst no information has been provided as to what action, if any, was taken against the publicans involved the likelihood is that they will have lost out both by having spent a not insignificant sum on an IPTV box that is now of limited value to them (given that 'blank' boxes can be bought for around £25) and also by now facing the prospect of either not showing live Premier League matches or obtaining a genuine sports package to allow them to do so.

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Ben is a dual-qualified Solicitor and chartered trade mark attorney and advises clients on both contentious and non-contentious intellectual property matters.

Ben Evans
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