Crackdown on 'dodgy firesticks' sees thousands cut off from viewing Premier League games illegally

The FACT body which clamps down on copyright theft has pledged to prosecute people using devices such as Firesticks to watch paid-for content free
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

A major clampdown on 'dodgy firesticks' has resulted in thousands of people losing their illegal supply following police raids.

Packages were being sold for as little as £40 a year, providing access to premium content including sports and other channels. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) spearheaded the crackdown which led to a man receiving a two-year suspended sentence after admitting to charges of promoting and selling illegally modified firesticks that provided unauthorised access to premium film and television content, including live football matches.

FACT disclosed that recent raids targeted 11 individuals selling illegal access to premium TV content, including live Premier League matches via modified or 'fully loaded' smart TV devices or sticks. In the most recent court case, Kevin O'Donnell, 41, from Liverpool, was investigated by FACT and Merseyside Police Cyber Crime Unit.

FACT reported that O'Donnell used Facebook to advertise an illegal IPTV subscription service. Operating under the pseudonym 'Kevo James', his account had over 3,600 members and was utilised as a platform to sell modified Firesticks.

These devices were illicitly set up to provide unauthorised access to sports, television channels, and movie content, bypassing legitimate providers such as Sky and TNT Sports and significantly damaging their commercial interests, reports Wales Online. Merseyside Police carried out a raid at O'Donnell's home in Liverpool, seizing numerous digital devices including computers, laptops, mobile phones and modified Firesticks.

A detailed investigation by FACT later uncovered that these premium packages, which ranged from £40 to £85 for a 12-month subscription, were being sold on illegally configured IPTV devices (fully loaded Firesticks). O'Donnell marketed his services through Facebook direct messaging or WhatsApp and offered postal or face-to-face delivery. FACT estimated that O'Donnell had made in excess of £130,000, costing content owners upwards of half a million pounds.

Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT, commented: "We are immensely grateful for the diligent work carried out by Merseyside Police Cyber Crime Unit. Their collaboration with FACT has been instrumental in holding O'Donnell accountable for his actions. This case highlights the importance of protecting legitimate providers as well as the significant impact that coordinated law enforcement efforts can have on combating digital piracy."

Detective Inspector Steve Frame commented: "The message is very clear: if you sell a device that provides access to content that is not licensed to you or owned by you, you could face criminal investigation, prosecution, and possible conviction."

He further mentioned: "We have been working closely with FACT to ensure that O'Donnell is made to answer for his actions, and this was a great example of how police and industry experts can come together to tackle this type of criminality. The investigation found that O'Donnell had made a significant amount of money from selling these illegally adapted firesticks and had done so over a number of years through Facebook and WhatsApp."

In addition, in March, FACT combined efforts with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and the Premier League in an operation against 11 individuals throughout the UK engaged in illicit sales of admission to premium TV content, including live Premier League matches. This resulted in one arrest and cautioning of ten other individuals during questioning.