Steven King, the mastermind of the operation, was sentenced to seven years and four months imprisonment. Paul Rolston was handed a sentence of six years and four months, and Daniel Malone a sentence of three years and four months.
Over the course of the bootlegging operation, King, Rolston and Malone stole premium content from more than 20 broadcasters around the world, earning in excess of UK£5 million in the process.
Operating under the names Dreambox, Dreambox TV Limited and Digital Switchover Limited, the service had provided illegal streams of Premier League matches to more than 1,000 pubs, clubs and homes across England and Wales over the course of a decade.
The trio most recently engaged various third parties based in the UK and across Europe to create illegal broadcast streams which they then sold on to their customers. Among their suppliers was Terry O’Reilly, who in 2016 was sentenced to four years imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud the Premier League and its pay-TV partners.
In handing down the sentences, which represented some of the longest ever issued for piracy-related crimes, the judge said the length of punishment had been aggravated by the trio’s attempts to frustrate broadcasters’ efforts to investigate the fraud, which included the use of logo-blocking and watermarking techniques.
“Today’s decision has provided further evidence that the law will catch up with companies and individuals that defraud rights owners and breach copyright,” said Kevin Plumb, the Premier League’s director of legal services. “The custodial sentences issued here reflect the seriousness and the scale of the crimes.
“Using these services is unlawful and fans should be aware that when they do so they enter into agreements with illegal businesses. They also risk being victims of fraud or identity theft by handing over personal data and financial details.
“The Premier League’s investment into cutting edge technology, combined with wide-ranging anti-piracy actions such as the one here today and the continuing landmark blocking injunction, means that it has never been more difficult for football piracy to operate in the UK.”
The Premier League has been ramping up its anti-piracy efforts in recent times, and in January announced that it had opened an office in Singapore to help its broadcast partners in the Asia-Pacific region to combat illegal streaming.
“The result of this case demonstrates that the illegal streaming of, and illegal access to, Premier League football is a serious crime,” added Kieron Sharp, director general at FACT, the UK intellectual property protection organisation. “This was a criminal enterprise whose only function was to make money from defrauding the Premier League and the legitimate broadcasters.
“For those people using services such as this, do not think that this is a grey area – it is not, it is breaking the law. Do not think it is a victimless crime – it is not, it puts thousands of ordinary peoples’ jobs at risk. Do not think that the internet provides anonymity – it does not.”
The Premier League news came in the same week that LaLiga, the Spanish soccer body, announced that its national anti-piracy drive has led to the first guilty verdicts against public establishments that illegally broadcast its games.