IPTV users unfazed by recent police crackdown on service providers

Police say IPTV box itself is not an ‘illicit device’, but insist software redesign to stream protected content is illegal

A recent crackdown on providers of illicit software installed on IPTV and Android boxes to stream media content free of charge, has left users and resellers in Malta unperturbed, despite the illegality of the service.

IPTV is widely sought-after in Malta, with 28% of households reported to have subscribed to IPTV or Android box services according to data from the MCA.

But posts and comments on social media following police action last week show a reluctance by IPTV users to accept their free streaming could come to a complete stop any time soon.

The common consensus seems to be that, despite possible temporary interruption to some servers, other avenues of streaming will replace those targeted by recent police action.

The police have confirmed that while an IPTV box or Android box is in itself not an "illicit device", the configuration of hardware to access protected content is illegal. “What renders such devices illicit is the installation and configuration of the devices in a way that they are able to access protected services,” a spokesperson for the police said.

Raids took place last week across Europe, including Malta, in an exercise triggered by Italy in a bid to clamp down on illegal streaming of content, including Serie A football. The European Union’s Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust) coordinated the action, codenamed ‘Operation Perfect Storm’, at the behest of Italy’s Guardia di Finanza through a European Investigation Order (EIO).

Such operations are actioned after an exhaustive assessment of the services being provided, the manner in which these services are being provided and the associated money flows, the police said.

In Malta, raids were coordinated by the Financial Crimes Investigations Department (FCID) and the Cybercrime Unit of the Police Force.

No arrests were made but searches carried out in Qormi and St Paul’s Bay in properties owned by one individual, yielded the confiscation of around 150 devices, together with approximately 48 Smart Satellite Cards, two smartphones and around €13,000 in cash. Equipment found was being used for the diffusion of IPTV Signal.

Despite the illicit methods with which IPTV services are provided, the regular advertising of the streaming device is common on Maltese social media channels and even on television.

One seller who advertises IPTV on Facebook’s marketplace told MaltaToday that he was not concerned about the recent action since he was only a reseller of the boxes and his main source of income did not come from the streaming devices.

Another seller insisted he was not doing anything illegal, as he only sold the set-top box with the software already installed and had nothing to do with the software. “I’m not really worried about it, I only provide the IPTV box not the software,” he said.

A recent survey by the Malta Communications Authority revealed that 28% of respondents owned an IPTV or Android box, down by 4% when compared to 2017. On the other hand, those with a pay-tv subscription also have IPTV.

Nine out of ten people with an IPTV box pointed out that the better channel line-up made IPTV better than a standard TV subscription. And one out of 10 people with a standard pay-tv subscription are looking to acquire an IPTV box.

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