The Times logo

Illegal streaming of premium television such as Game of Thrones and Premier League football is rising despite official action to curb it, figures show.

Companies including Google, eBay and Facebook are also making it easier for the pirates. Use of one of the biggest directory sites for illegal add-ons for “Kodi boxes” rose by 88.2 per cent between last July and this March. INCOPRO, the technology company that disclosed the figures, said it was a benchmark for overall illicit use of the boxes.

Experts estimate that more than five million British households use set-top boxes equipped with legitimate Kodi software but loaded with illegal apps to avoid paying for content that would cost more than £50 a month.

According to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), one quarter of over-12s who are active online are involved in piracy and the proportion of TV viewers who stream illegally increased from 20 per cent to 22 per cent last year.

TV programmes account for the most infringements, with 8 per cent of over-12s admitting accessing pirated content, compared with 7 per cent for music and 6 per cent for film.

Figures from Muso, an anti-piracy technology company, indicate that the UK ranks fifth globally for film and TV streaming piracy. Muso said that the Game of Thrones season seven premiere was pirated by more than six million Britons. Google and Bing, operated by Microsoft, pledged to use algorithms to demote links to pirated material in search results.

Nevertheless The Times found that Google’s search engine made it easy to find illegal streams. A search for “free streaming sites” brought up the names of piracy websites in a “featured results” box, linking to sites showing the latest Game of Thrones and new films such as Dunkirk, often via footage shot on handheld cameras in cinemas.

YouTube, owned by Google, also features how-to guides to illegal viewing which have been watched millions of times. Many of these videos feature Google ads. Our reporter also found multiple adverts for “fully loaded” Kodi boxes on eBay and Facebook Marketplace at prices of about £40 to £80 using simple search strings — months after the sites prohibited their sale; eBay takes a percentage of sales in fees.

Police forces have arrested several vendors of adulterated Kodi boxes. Those selling the boxes and running the illegal streams face up to ten years in prison. Matt Cope, of the IPO, said: “Earlier this year the IPO brokered an agreement between search engines and the UK’s creative industries. This has resulted in a concerted effort by search engines to demote websites that host infringing content.”

YouTube removed the videos reported by The Times but last night details of piracy sites continued to appear prominently in Google’s search results.

Simon Morrison, public policy manager at Google, said: “We take protecting creativity online seriously and we’re doing more to battle copyright infringement than ever.”

The Kodi box listings that The Times reported were removed by eBay. A spokeswoman said: “We work with the police and regulators to ensure all listings on eBay comply with the law.”

A spokesman for Facebook said: “We devote significant resources to fight piracy issues on Facebook. We do not allow the sale of any unauthorised streaming devices on Marketplace and will remove items as soon as they are reported to us.”

The view the original article in The Times, click here.

To find out more about how INCOPRO can help your brand protect itself in the ever challenging online environment, please contact us.