In 2022 the streaming giant Netflix announced falling numbers of paid subscribers to their video streaming services, which was in part attributed to the cost of living crisis. However, consumers must take note that they risk criminal prosecution if they choose to switch to illegal or 'pirate' streaming sources for their TV and film content.
In the UK it is illegal to watch pirated content, and West Mercia Police claim to have identified over 1,000 viewers that are doing so. They now intend to visit the homes of these people to highlight this issue and order them to stop their illegal activity. The average viewer may not be aware that streaming from pirate sources is an illegal activity that could result in fines or even imprisonment. The Independent reports that, in 2021, 2 individuals in the UK received a prison sentence for watching and providing unauthorised streams.
This crackdown on copyright infringement is part of a wider initiative by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) in the UK and Ireland. FACT's activity has evolved, and it is evident they are no longer simply targeting the operators of the illegal streaming services - viewers may now be caught out. "Anyone selling, distributing or allowing access to content without the permission of the copyright owner is committing a crime. But what you need to know is that anyone who is accessing content in this way is also committing a crime".
FACT are also keen to correct commentators who believe illegal streaming is simply a harmless activity. Pirate streaming sites are often run by criminal organisations who use the advertising revenue to fund their wider criminal activities. Consumers of products that infringe intellectual property rights - be it viewing illegal streaming sites, or buying counterfeit goods such as fake designer handbags - are inadvertently funding organisations that commit more overtly harmful crimes.
As the police and FACT crackdown on copyright infringers, the average viewer should think carefully about where they are sourcing their content.