Football streaming site owner found guilty

A man from Reading, Berkshire has been convicted of a number of copyright offences in relation to the illegal streaming of football matches.

The 24 year old from Lower Earley was found guilty at Reading Crown Court on Wednesday (12/12) of one count of communicating a copyrighted work to the public in the course of a business contrary to S.107(2A) of the Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988.

His accomplice, Jack Bannister, aged 23, from Portal Grove, Burnley, Lancashire, was found guilty of transferring criminal property contrary to S.327(1)(d) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, after he was hired by the man to process payments from the copyright offences.

The 24 year old was the operator of a website called freelivefooty that made unauthorised broadcasts of live Premier League football matches to subscribers worldwide. He took the matches illegally from foreign satellite broadcasts using a two metre satellite dish, seven computers and nine satellite decoder boxes at his home.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) commenced an investigation on behalf of the Premier League, a FACT member, and supplied evidence to the Thames Valley Police Economic Crime Unit (ECU), who arrested the 24 year old and Bannister in November 2010.

Numerous ‘cease and desist’ notices had been sent to the website on behalf of the Premier League but man’s activities continued. Investigations showed that Bannister had processed the money through his PayPal account. Both men were subsequently charged on 27 June 2011 and found guilty after a six day trial.

Both men will be sentenced at Reading Crown Court on 25 January 2013.

Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, said: “This is a groundbreaking case, proving conclusively that operating a website that rebroadcasts copyrighted works without permission is a criminal offence.  It is also clear that those running such sites are doing so for profit and running businesses off the back of others’ work.”

A Premier League spokesman added: “This case yet again shows that broadcasting Premier League copyright protected footage without authorisation can lead to a criminal conviction.

“The Premier League is based on a high investment model, driving fan demand by providing football that people want to watch. Our clubs acquire and develop talented players, play matches in fantastic facilities, invest in other leagues and make significant contributions to good causes. The whole industry benefits and copyright infringement threatens that entire model. It is encouraging to see the Court recognise that with this judgment.”

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