The English Premier League has claimed a victory in its ongoing campaign against piracy after three men were jailed for a total of 17 years for conspiracy to defraud.
The sentences, some of the longest ever issued for piracy-related crimes, were handed down at Warwick Crown Court following a four-week trial.
Trading under the names Dreambox (unincorporated), Dreambox TV Limited, and Digital Switchover Limited, via websites at dreamboxtv.co.uk and yourfootie.com, the three men had provided illegal access to Premier League football to more than 1,000 pubs, clubs, and homes throughout England and Wales. The fraudulent companies earned in excess of £5m (€5.8m/$6.6m) through their illegal activity.
Steven King, who was found to have masterminded the fraud, has been sentenced to seven years and four months’ imprisonment. Paul Rolston received a sentence of six years and four months, and Daniel Malone a sentence of three years and three months.
The operation was found to have used a range of technologies to continue the fraud over the course of a decade. Most recently, the defendants engaged various third parties located in the UK and across Europe to create illegal broadcast streams, which they then sold on to their customers.
Their suppliers included Terry O’Reilly, who was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in 2016 for conspiracy to defraud the Premier League and its pay-television providers. Over the course of the conspiracy, premium content from more than 20 broadcasters around the world was fraudulently obtained and supplied by the defendants.
All of these methods enabled users to view pay-television coverage without the permission of, and without making any appropriate payment to, the relevant broadcasters and content owners.
The Premier League said the defendants’ serious attempts to frustrate broadcasters’ efforts in investigating the fraud, which included the use of logo-blocking and watermarking techniques, was an aggravating feature in the length of sentences.
Premier League director of legal services Kevin Plumb said: “The decision has provided further evidence that the law will catch up with companies and individuals that defraud rights owners and breach copyright. The custodial sentences issued here reflect the seriousness and the scale of the crimes.
“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.”