Christmas often sees people opening up new devices, laptops, TVs and streaming devices such as Kodi boxes.
It also results in an increase in people streaming TV, films and sport.
When they are sold ‘fully loaded’ with software to allow users to stream pay-per-view content, they are illegal, and the fight goes on to tackle the issue.
Organised crime gangs are understood to be involved in the sale of devices such as Kodi boxes and police, trading standards, and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) are all aiming to bring down distributors.
Now, the Government’s Intellectual Property Office has published its official guidance on streaming devices.
Here’s what it says:
1. What is 'illicit streaming' and what devices are commonly used?
Illicit streaming is the watching of content without the copyright owner’s permission by any means, not just via hardware devices.
This could be using a smart TV, laptop or mobile phone.
Illicit streaming devices are physical boxes that are connected to your TV, or USB sticks that plug into the TV such as adapted Amazon Fire sticks and so called ‘Kodi’ boxes or Android TV boxes.
These devices are legal when used to watch legitimate, free to air, content.
They become illegal once they are adapted to stream illicit content, for example TV programmes, films and subscription sports channels without paying the appropriate subscriptions.
Adapting a streaming device to view illicit content usually requires loading of software add-ons or extensions.
Illicit streaming can also be facilitated by using certain apps on smartphones and tablets.
2. How do you identify an illicit streaming device
If you are watching television programmes, 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 illicit streaming device (ISD) or app.
This could include a film recently released in the cinema, a sporting event that is being broadcast by BT Sport or a television programme, like Game of Thrones, that is only available on Sky.
These devices are often purchased online and described as ‘Fully Loaded, Jail Broken, Plug and Play, or Subscription Gift’.
They are described using these terms to show that they have been adapted and are functioning as an illicit streaming device.
In some cases consumers buy devices and subsequently add the software, this also makes it an illicit streaming device.
3. Why you should not buy these devices
These devices often lack parental controls.
Using them could expose children or young people to explicit or age inappropriate content.
Another important reason for consumers to avoid purchasing these streaming devices is from an electrical safety point of view.
Where devices and their power cables have been tested, some have failed EU safety standards and have the potential to present a real danger to the public, causing a fire in your home or premises.
The creative industries in the UK is a very important sector.
It provides employment for more than 1.9 million people and contributes £84.1bn to our economy.
Using illicit streaming devices is illegal.
If you are not paying for this content you are depriving industry of the revenue it needs to fund the next generation of TV programmes, films and sporting events we all enjoy.
Instead it provides funds for the organised criminals who sell or adapt these illicit devices.
4. What should you do if you already have an ISD
These devices can be used legally by removing the software.
If you are unsure get advice to help you use the device legally.
If you wish to watch content that’s only available via subscription, such as sports, you should approach the relevant provider to find out about legal ways to watch.
5. Where can you report sellers of ISDs
If you see these devices being offered for sale, tell Crimestoppers exactly what you know and they will pass this on to the appropriate organisation for investigation.
All information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
6. Where to get further advice
Citizens Advice provides free, confidential and independent advice.
Get it Right from a Genuine Site helps you get the music, TV, films, games, books, newspapers, magazines and sport that you love from genuine services.
Agorateka is a Pan-European portal of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), offering searches through national-level portals that link to sites for music, film and television, e-books, video games and sports events.