- Jul 27, 2015
In May 2022, Italian police claimed that thousands of people had unwittingly subscribed to a pirate IPTV service being monitored by the authorities. When users tried to access illegal streams, a warning message claimed that they had already been tracked. With fines now being received through the mail, police are making some extraordinary claims about how this was made possible.
Over the past two decades, pirate sites and services frequented by millions of users have been shut down following legal action. No longer useful for spreading files, many were repurposed to spread fear. In the wake of Hollywood’s 2005 win at the U.S. Supreme Court, the website of file-sharing service Grokster was transformed into a personalized warning. Anyone visiting the site saw their own IP address alongside a message claiming it had been logged. “Don’t think you can’t get caught. You are not anonymous,” the message added. Variations on this theme have since appeared on dozens of platforms, most famously via an MPA campaign that declared “You can click but you can’t hide.” These messages were designed to instill fear and uncertainty but didn’t lead to any notable action against those who viewed them. Until now, at least.
Most top-tier copyright holders avoid targeting consumer-level pirates, mainly because the optics aren’t great. No matter how carefully targets are chosen, suing someone’s grandma is terrible PR and even when things go smoothly, results are limited. Today’s general consensus is that hitting site operators is much more effective but whenever the opportunity appears, undermining user confidence should be part of the strategy. Italian police have been following the same model by shutting down pirate IPTV services (1,2,3) and warning users they’re up next.
No Bluff: Police Tracked IPTV Subscribers
Letters recently sent to homes in Italy reveal that police were not bluffing. A copy letter obtained by Iilsole24ore identifies the send as the Nucleo Speciale Tutela Privacy e Frodi Tecnologiche, a Guardia di Finanza unit specializing in IT-related crime. The operation targeted around 500 pirate IPTV resources including websites and Telegram channels. At the time, police also reported that 310+ pieces of IPTV infrastructure, including primary and balancing servers distributing illegal streams, were taken offline. Police also claimed that a tracking system made it possible to identify the users of the pirate streams. The letter suggests extraordinary and potentially unprecedented tactics.
The letters refer to an administrative copyright infringement fine of just 154 euros or “in case of recidivism” a total of 1,032 euros. However, if people pay their fines within 60 days, the amounts are reduced to 51 euros and 344 euros respectively.
“It is important to raise awareness of all citizens, especially young people, on this issue and make them understand that financing this business means financing organized crime. We must protect the healthy economy and companies that respect the rules,” Berruti says. Around 1,600 people are believed to have been targeted in this first wave of letters but according to Andrea Duillo, CEO of Sky Italia, this is just the start.
“These first fines show that it is doubly dangerous to use pirated services, because not only do you hand over your personal data to criminal organizations, but you also commit an offense for which you are fined and prosecuted,” Duillo concludes.
Thousands of people who signed up to a pirate IPTV service being monitored by the police are starting to receive fines through the mail.
More on the topic:
Italy's Polizia Di Stato reports that a huge operation targeting an IPTV piracy network is still ongoing after being launched nationwide overnight. The currently unnamed network reportedly serves 900,000 users and reportedly generates millions of euros in monthly profits. Video seems to confirm...