UK Law enforcement: individual consumers can be jailed for watching illegal streaming

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Officials of the Cyber, Intelligence and Serious Organised Crime Directorate of the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary have sent individual warning notices to thousands of consumers who are believed to be taking illegal services from GE Hosting (aka Global Entertainment).

Individual subscribers could get up to five years imprisonment, while the offenders behind GE Hosting may be subject to as much as 14 years.

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The recipients of the notice are thought to be on a list of subscribers that was obtained by police during a June 30 raid on a 24 year-old man who was running a pirate streaming operation in the Hollesley area.  The streaming service was taken down and the individual was arrested.

Consumer warning letter (excerpt). Source: Norfolk & Suffolk Constabulary

Read the full letter sent to consumers by the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary

Read the FACT news release which contains FACT’s interpretations of the matter.

Why it matters

While Section 11 of the UK’s Fraud Act of 2006 makes it a crime “… for any person, by any dishonest act, to obtain services for which payment is required, with intent to avoid payment” and “covers the situation where a person attaches a decoder to her television to enable viewing access to cable / satellite television channels for which she has no intention of paying,” FACT notes that this may be the first notice of its kind.

There’s sound logic in going after the demand-side of piracy, but to some, this initiative may seem a bit harsh; as many consumers access illegal streaming services without realizing that the services are illegal.  This reinforces the need for consumer education about piracy, which is one of FACT’s basic roles.

But it could be worse: a pirate in Russia was sentenced to 18 months’ forced labor plus monetary penalties.

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