Sweden: Tax authority has recovered millions from streaming pirates

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For the first time, the Swedish tax authority researched the income realized by sellers of illegal ‘IPTV’ channels.  So far, 80 investigations have produced tax revenue equivalent to about US$3.5 million; with another 20 investigations ongoing.

A report produced by the tax authority characterizes the piracy industry as a layered pyramid scheme.  At the top are a limited number of worldwide criminal networks. The middle layer consists of the technically savvy, who steal the channels. At the bottom are private individuals who act as resellers of the illegal channel packages.

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In order to learn about the industry and its structure, the Swedish Tax Agency has collaborated with representatives of those who own the rights. This includes Nordic Content Protection (NCP), which works to prevent illegal streaming and unauthorized access to broadcasts, and the Rights Alliance, which works for both Swedish and international film and television companies.

According to NCP, more than 1,500 domains target the Swedish market to sell IPTV without having broadcasting rights. IPTV is also sold completely openly on social media, including via Instagram, Facebook, Discord, Telegram and others.

To identify sellers, the Swedish Tax Agency has, among other things, made test purchases and also looked for sellers on the internet. The result was approximately 200 identified retailers, of which 97 were selected for in-depth investigation.

According to the report, the typical Swedish retailer has income of between half and one million kroner (US$50k to $100k) annually. 

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“The dealers usually do not have a company and do not declare any of their commission-based income,” says Marcus Pettersson, control coordinator at the Swedish Tax Agency. “In our investigations, we have met ordinary Swedish men who sit on the Spanish sun coast or in Thailand and earn their pension by selling illegal TV channels. But the most common is that they sell from Sweden.”

Further reading

Worldwide criminal networks behind the illegal sale of television channels. Press release. November 23, 2023. Skatteverket (Swedish Tax Authority). Auto-translated from Swedish to English by Google Translate.

The Tax Agency’s report regarding the control of illegal IPTV
Diary number: 8-2648435. Report. November 22, 2023. Skatteverket (Swedish Tax Authority).  In Swedish.

Why it matters

The Tax Authority admits that it doesn’t have a full accounting of revenue for illegal straming services, since much of the revenue travels through channels that are difficult to trace, such as cryptocurrency.

The report quotes 2019 research by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), which estimated that about 8.6% of Swedish consumers had access to illegal TV channels; fourth place in Europe.

Image source: Jon Flobrant, via Unsplash

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