If you’re thinking of getting IPTV then you need to read this first
You’ve probably seen the term IPTV being bandied around in the run up to Christmas.
But unless you’re particularly clued up on the latest tech, you might not be quite sure what it is.
You’re also probably wondering if it is the same as the pre-loaded Kodi boxes that flooded the UK market last year.
Or even if it’s legal.
As more and more people are cutting the cable in favour of cheaper services, there is now a whole host of companies offering IPTV subscriptions, promising premium content at a fraction of the cost.
With many claiming full access to a range of services including Sky, Netflix, BT Sport and more, the demand for the product has generated a large number of sellers – often operating on social media.
So if you are thinking of buying into an IPTV subscription this Christmas, here’s what you need to know:
What is IPTV?
It stands for Internet Protocol Television. Simply put, it’s the technical term for streaming via the internet.
In fact, many major TV providers have already adopted the service themselves – think Netflix, NowTV and Amazon. Even the BBC uses IPTV with it’s iPlayer service.
These are completely legal services which you pay a fee to access as an alternative to a cabled or satellite connection.
What are IPTV devices?
IPTV boxes (Image: PA)
The devices come in a variety of forms that are physically connected to your TV. From set-top boxes to “sticks”, they allow the streaming services to be accessed by your TV.
This content can be movies, TV channels or music videos. It’s an increasingly popular way to view TV and movies as fans look for on-demand solutions to their viewing habits.
Again, the devices themselves in their native form are entirely legal.
Developers have manipulated the software on the devices to allow access to premium and pay per view content that you’d normally have to pay a hefty subscription bill to watch.
By modifying the devices and installing piracy configured addons to access the content without the content owners permission, it then breaches a whole number of copyright laws.
Known as “illicit streams”, if you are watching TV shows, films or sporting events where you would normally be paying to view them and you have not paid, you are likely to be using an illegal device.
How is it different to Kodi?
Kodi boxes quickly caught the attention of authorities who launched a massive crackdown on the sale of the fully-loaded boxes.
While it never aimed to be used as a platform for streaming pirated content, the nature of the software meant it was open to developers to adapt it.
IPTV is simply another program like Kodi that has been cracked to allow viewers to watch premium content via an internet connection without the cost.
If I pay for a subscription, is it still illegal?
Netflix (Image: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)
Kodi boxes – or Android boxes – were often sold “pre-loaded” and consumers paid a one-off fee for the device and the service.
But many of the new IPTV services often charge a monthly or annual subscription to access the streams.
Paying for the service might make it appear to be all above boards.
However this does not make it legal. The IPTV device of your choice will contain third-party add-ons -or channels – which allow illegal access to the premium content.
And while being able to have access to all the Sky channels, live sports and Pay Per View events for a tenner a month might seem like a good deal, most of the IPTV sellers and developers are taking payments by PayPal and other easily traceable payment methods.
Not to mention, many are using home-based servers to broadcast the streams which are also easily traceable and don’t have the protections in place in order to ensure that their users won’t be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Rights holders and service providers like the Premier League and Sky TV are furiously trying to shut down the illegal add-ons that supply Kodi.
A recent EU ruling stated that streaming pirated video content online does constitute an offence. Which spurred on providers to crack down on pirated streaming.
There are also vast sums of money involved thanks to the might of corporations like Sky and the Premier League.
In a landmark ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union stated that the temporary reproduction of a copyright-protected work, obtained without the consent of the copyright holder, is NOT exempt from the “right of reproduction”.
In July 2018, the High Court renewed an injunction allowing the Premier League to block live streams of games in the UK. It covers the entire 2018/19 Premier League season, and requires UK internet service providers to set about blocking the streams in real time.
The Premier League is keen to step up Kodi crackdown efforts, criticising proponents of Kodi and even VPNs. Executive director William Bush said: “Promoting circumventions of the law should be discouraged and minimised.”
“I’m not saying it can be eliminated, but to have websites which show you how to break the law, have social media supply content which shows you how to break the law, everything from Kodi boxes to how to get a VPN to circumvent paying subscriptions. They should be discouraged.”
It’s been almost a year since the UK government published official guidelines on streaming devices.
Streaming illegally is becoming harder with bans and blocks appearing to be put in place on an almost weekly basis.
The Premier League began targeting streams last year and that was soon followed by UEFA.
Speaking about issues surrounding this type of content, Kieron Sharp at FACT, said: “People need to be aware that streaming pirated content is no longer a grey area, in fact it is very black and white.
“If you are accessing content for free such as sport, TV and films for which you’d normally need a subscription, or go to the cinema, or buy a DVD, this is illegal.
“As the old saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.”
Can I get into trouble for having one?
Yes, you can be prosecuted for streaming movies illegally. Although nobody has been prosecuted for downloading or streaming movies illegally in the UK – yet. This is probably because the illegal streaming and downloading by end-users is simply too widespread for film copyright owners and organisations representing them to track.
In the UK all the major internet service providers (ISPs) have been required by the authorities to sign up to actions to try to identify and prevent illegal activity on the web. And the technology is there to quickly detect any illegal activity.
In the first instance, those identified as using illegal services will be contacted by their ISP with a written warning to desist the illegal behaviour.
If the end user does not comply. the ISP then can withdraw internet service and they also have the option to report you to the authorities, which could lead to prosecution.
However there are other risks involved. By accessing illegal streams and websites, you leave yourself open to being hacked or having malware installed.
You also run the risk of the streams being shut down or general poor quality of broadcast. There’s no guarantee what you are paying for will actually be watchable.
How are they freely available to buy online if they’re illegal?
Major online platforms including Amazon, Facebook and eBay banned the sale of “fully loaded” boxes on their websites in 2017.
But investigations have found that they’re still pretty easy to track down.
Sellers have been dodging the bans simply by misspelling keywords, such as the names of legitimate content providers, in product listings. There’s plenty of “eyepeetv” boxes that let you watch “Sly” and “Virmin” for free.
In August, Facebook went even further by banning the sale of any device that comes with Kodi installed, even if they’ve not been pre-loaded with piracy-configured addons.
Kieron Sharp, the CEO of the Federation Against Copyright Theft said: “eBay, Facebook and Amazon have banned the sale of these devices, but criminals are beating the system by purposely misspelling brand names − we need to see tighter controls in place to help stop the sale of these devices,”