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Digital Piracy Crackdown – UK Report (Summary)

In September last year, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and City of London Police, Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) along with UK creative industry contributors published a report titled, “Cracking Down on Digital Piracy Report.”[1]

The report is divided into five (5) sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Sizing up the issue
  3. Behind the scenes: How digital piracy happens
  4. The people behind digital piracy
  5. Conclusions, including recent cases and piracy trends

This eighteen-page report presents meaningful insights into the progression of digital piracy in the U.K. as well as an overall view of the problem. It was created essentially to help the public better understand what drives digital piracy and its consequences.

Here are some highlights from the report:


The report initially acknowledges how difficult it is to accurately assess the extent of the problem. “By its nature as a criminal enterprise, digital piracy is opaque and definitive information often does not exist.”


“The latest police figures estimated that there were two million computer misuse offenses committed in England and Wales in 2016.”

“…we believe a million set-top boxes with software added to them to facilitate illegal downloads have been sold in the UK in the last couple of years.”

“…the UK High Court of Justice ruled that Internet Service Providers were to block access to illegal live streams of English Premier League football… that an end user accessing streams via ISDs carry out an act of copying which is not authorized is infringing copyright, meaning those viewing illegal streams are breaking the law.

“The new Digital Economy Act… has extended criminal penalties for online copyright infringement to match those of physical copyright infringement –maximum sentences will increase from two years to 10 years.

“The Premier League and FACT were responsible for the successful prosecutions of Terry O’Reilly and Will O’Leary (2016), which was the first sentencing of a supplier of illicit streaming devices.


Essentially, the way digital piracy happens is a two-step process:

  1. The content is stolen; and
  2. Illicit streaming services and devices are provided to access the content

How is the content stolen?

  • Cinemas or online services
  • Streaming sites, torrent sites or cyberlockers
  • Re-broadcast from local TV stations

China – Legal Set-Top Boxes Imported into the UK

Set-Top Boxes Illegally Adapted and Sold in the UK

How do consumers get access?

  • Streamed for free and monetized through advertising or malware
  • Subscription
  • Cyberlocker

The Race to Release Content:

  • Cinema Rips
  • Web Rips
  • Live TV Rips
  • Blu-Ray Rips

Three Ways Criminal Gangs Make Money from Digital Piracy

  • Advertising
  • Subscription
  • Malware
  • Content Ransom (new addition)


The report identifies “… three key groups of people involved in the digital piracy ecosystem worldwide.”

  • Release Groups
  • Site Operators
  • Illicit Streaming Device Wholesalers and Distributors


The report concludes with the following changing digital piracy trends and several recent case studies:

  • The Tip of the Iceberg
  • Kodi Add-Ons
  • Social Media Streaming overtaking Web Streaming
  • The Dark Web and Bitcoin Boom
  • Social Media Commerce Replacing the Pub or Car Boot Sale

[1] Cracking Down on Digital Piracy Report, September 2017, United Kingdom

Cracking Down on Digital Piracy Report (UK 2017)

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Ron Alvarez is an IP investigations and protection consultant and writer in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron has since coordinated the private investigation of international fraud and money laundering cases, as well as IP-related investigations and research involving the four pillars of IP: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has written a number of articles for various investigative publications, as well as published "The World of Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Investigations" in November 2021.

1 comment on “Digital Piracy Crackdown – UK Report (Summary)

  1. Pingback: U.S. Anti-Piracy Legislation Passed – Illegal Streaming Penalties Increased – IP PI BLOG

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