If you’re an American reading this who has wanted to watch international soccer (or even just international sports in general, maybe even just sports in general), there’s a good chance you’ve probably found yourself watching a less-than-legal stream.
For a long time that was the only way to watch certain leagues or events, and now it still exists as a way for some people to get around paying for a television subscription or pay-per-view package. Obviously we’re not endorsing the practice, but it’s kind of silly to ignore the prevalence of it. It also feels odd to consider the idea of actual jail time for piracy like that; especially just for viewing streams. Obviously penalties and fines make sense for those who would be doing the actual hosting and streaming, but typically those aren’t the kinds of things people sign up for; they’re just available online, usually on a site that overwhelms your adblocker with a ton of shady, porn-centric pop-ups that you should absolutely not click.
One UK man, though, went a step farther, and he’s now facing a 16-month jail sentence for it. According to the court, Paul Faulkner set up a paid subscription service and signed viewers up to watch content he was pirating, chiefly Premier League matches. He went so far as to advertise it on social media. That’s certainly brazen!
The Premier League covered the sentencing on their main site, presumably as a sort of warning to others:
Mr Paul Faulkner appeared in front of Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday 6 July after pleading guilty to multiple copyright and fraud offences, including accessing pirate content for his own use.
Mr Faulkner was the operator of subscription-based IPTV service TV Solutions, a pirate streaming service that offered illegal access to sports and entertainment broadcast content, including live Premier League matches and Sky channels.
Mr Faulkner pleaded guilty to both the unlawful supply of content and his own use of the service to view content he should have been paying to watch. The judge recognised that Faulkner’s use of the unauthorised service was a distinct crime in itself. This was reflected in him receiving a separate sentence of four months’ imprisonment for using the service.
Despite the defendant selling access to his service on social media platforms as a secondary source of income, the judge made it clear this case was a sophisticated fraud carried out over a significant period of time, made more serious by the involvement of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
Leagues have been a lot more active in trying to shut down illegal streams in the past few years, presumably as it’s become easier to track them and have them shut down. We might never again have the pleasure of watching a top-ranked football team almost lose to Army via one guy’s Periscope feed, for example, which is a shame in the same way any loss of potential absurdity is a shame.