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A couple of weeks ago I sat in the front room of an elderly neighbour, on the TV screen was a Premier League football match being broadcast on Sky Sports. I was surprised because I knew this chap struggled on a basic pension and the Sky Sports package is not cheap! However I then noticed the digital box, it was not the standard Sky digital box but a custom TV media box complete with VPNs.
For a few pounds a year to cover updates, this box was pre-installed with a version of Kodi and a few extras which granted free access to every single Sky subscription channel. The cost of these channels if paid for legitimately would be over a hundred pounds a month, yet the cost for these was virtually nothing. The box even simulated the Sky selection screen which meant that this 80 year old man was happily surfing at the cutting edge of digital piracy.
It turns out his nephew has installed it and he’d been using it for several months. He was blissfully unaware that technically he was stealing all this content from Sky and to be honest I didn’t feel the need to spoil his enjoyment by telling him
The reality is that in the UK and indeed across the world, digital piracy is starting to hit the mainstream. In millions of households, neat little digital boxes sit happily under TVs streaming illegal copies of US cable channels or UK satellite channels. It’s got to the point that it’s so common that most people don’t even consider it illegal, something like taping a radio programme or copying a DVD. After all why pay a fortune monthly to some huge media conglomerate when you can purchase a pre-installed media streamer that supplies the same for nothing.
It does of course, cost the media companies huge amounts of lost revenue and obviously they are trying to stop this. In the UK this month, will see the first phase of action designed to stop this behaviour. The biggest ISPs in the UK will all be sending out emails to any individual who’s internet connection is being used to download copyrighted material illegally.
It’s been discussed for years but has always been postponed for a variety of reasons. For example there was a lot controversy when copyright holders started using a practice dubbed as speculative invoicing. These were basically demands for money threatening legal action against anyone who’s internet connection was being used to download copyrighted material – you can read about in this article – Bittorrents Monitored. The issue has never been detecting the downloads but rather what actions can be taken, legally it was very difficult to prove an individual was responsible even if their internet connection was being used.
The letters will be sent in the form of emails, and will simply inform the user that their internet connection is being used to download copyrighted material and information about where it can be obtained legitimately. There will be no threats, fines or further action and critics have pointed out that it will have little effect. The action will only target P2P users, those who download using torrents and file shares – however the use of these methods has fallen dramatically over the last few years. The majority of people who view copyrighted material now stream directly using these TV boxes and programs such as Kodi which are slightly more difficult to detect.
It is likely that these users will be targeted later although who knows how long this will take.