The days of using “dodgy boxes” or “TV sticks” to access unauthorized streaming content are coming to an end, according to legal expert Dr Seán Ó Conaill. A recent court case in Kerry, where a pub was ordered to pay damages to a broadcasting company for using a dodgy box to show Premier League soccer, has brought these devices into the mainstream news. Dr Ó Conaill, a Law lecturer at University College Cork, explains that these “protection-defeating devices” are not illegal themselves, but using them to stream content without paying for it is against the law.
Dr Ó Conaill clarifies that devices such as Chromecast or Firestick, which can be bought from electronics stores, are not illegal. The issue arises when people pay for subscriptions to illegally access content or purchase pre-loaded devices that allow streaming without payment. He advises that if someone is given a device as a gift, they should be cautious and consider the price. If it is significantly cheaper than what legitimate providers charge, it is likely a dodgy box.
The use of dodgy boxes is a form of piracy, as it involves unauthorized streaming of content. Dr Ó Conaill explains that broadcasting rights are sold separately in different markets, and by mirroring broadcasts from other countries, these devices show content they have no right to display. He emphasizes that these organizations are illegal and engage in black market activities. In recent years, the legality of such activities has been clarified, leading to criminal and civil offenses and fines.
While it may be challenging to prove individual users’ involvement, the responsibility is shifting to broadband providers. Broadcast companies are urging providers to block specific signals, websites, or avenues used for illegal streaming. Dr Ó Conaill draws a parallel with the household charge taxes, where the government prevented the sale of houses until the tax was paid. Similarly, service providers can cut off the signal to prevent access to illegal streaming.
To combat illegal streaming, streaming services can take inspiration from the music industry’s response to file-sharing app Napster. Record companies forced Eircom to provide them with records of people who had been downloading illegally, leading to lawsuits. The market adjusted with the introduction of legal streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube Music. Dr Ó Conaill suggests that sports broadcasters could follow suit by breaking up the rights to different sports, allowing viewers to pay for what they want to watch.
Dr Ó Conaill addresses concerns about liability when it comes to teenagers in a household using dodgy boxes without the knowledge of the adults. He explains that if they are using the broadband connection in the home, both the adults and the children are liable. He emphasizes that by not paying subscriptions to broadcasting corporations, individuals contribute to reducing the amount these companies can invest in local sports, such as football.
In conclusion, the use of dodgy boxes and unauthorized streaming of content is facing legal consequences. Dr Ó Conaill warns that these devices’ days are numbered, and individuals should be aware of the legal implications and support legitimate streaming services to ensure the continued growth and investment in the entertainment industry.