UK IPO calls for views on illicit IPTV streaming devices

Internet Protocol television (IPTV) boxes (also known as set-top boxes, Android TV boxes or Kodi boxes) are small plug and play media servers, originally designed to allow consumers to stream legitimate content (locally stored or legal online content). Despite the legitimate use of this equipment, software is widely available (like Kodi extensions) which connect the boxes to illegal content through streaming websites, file lockers and BitTorrent trackers.

Configuring IPTV boxes in this way allows the consumer to easily access subscription TV, sports and films for the one-off price of a box (usually £40-50). It is claimed that the ease of use of these boxes, the wide range of illicit content available and the fact they are freely available from a number of well-known online retailers as well as physical stores, has led to a sharp rise in their use by consumers.

Broadcasters and content owners have voiced concerns that, although a range of existing legislation applies to the sale and use of these devices (as well as the provision of illicit content streams), the legal framework does not provide sufficient tools to tackle this growing threat. The Call for Views is aimed primarily at those with experience of investigating and prosecuting offences relating to illicit streaming devices.

Although the applicable law will vary from case to case, there are a wide range of provisions which may be applicable to the sale, advertising, supply or use of set-top boxes for illicit streaming. There are several cases in the pipeline that may test the applicability of other provisions. One trial is due to take place in May 2017 under s296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 (devices and services designed to circumvent technological measures) and there are a number of cases still being investigated.