Express & Star

Man jailed for advertising and selling illegal premium TV streaming services

A man has been jailed for a year for advertising and selling illegal premium TV streaming services.

Last updated
Birmingham Crown Court

Paul Merrell was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday following a joint investigation by The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards team.

Over a four-year period, from 2017 to 2021, the 42-year-old derived a substantial income from the illegal provision of access to subscription-only streams through his business under the banner of ‘Media Maverick'.

He would source customers online who, for a fee, were provided with online access enabling them to stream premium television content, including Premier League matches, without the permission of legitimate providers such as BT Sport – now TNT Sports – and Sky TV.

The investigation also revealed Merrell's involvement as a reseller for the illegal streaming service 'Flawless'.

Evidence obtained on a raid was crucial in identifying that the 'Flawless' service continued to run ever after the key operators had been arrested and contributed to the collective 30 years of custodial sentences for defendants involved in its operation.

The investigation began in July 2019 with intelligence from FACT that pointed to Merrell's illegitimate supply of access to premium television services.

Following investigations a warrant was executed in January 2021 at Merrell's home in Sutton Coldfield.

Several digital devices were seized and a subsequent forensic examination by FACT provided crucial evidence for the prosecution.

Merrell, of Boldmere Road, Sutton Coldfield, pleaded guilty to possessing, selling or distributing a device designed to circumvent technical measures and providing, promoting, advertising or marketing a service the purpose of which is to circumvent technical measures.

He was sentenced to 12 months in prison for advertising and selling illegal IPTV services and the court also issued a confiscation order which means Merrell will have to pay £91,243.

The judge said it was a 'sophisticated, persistent commercial undertaking which lasted for four years' and would have continued if he had not been stopped.

Kieron Sharp, CEO of FACT, said: "Once again a robust, collaborative investigation with law enforcement has proved to be effective in combating serious criminal activity.

"This conviction sends a clear message that making premium televisual content available illegally is a serious crime with severe consequences.

"In this case, we would particularly like to thank Birmingham Trading Standards and West Midlands Police for their assistance and involvement, without which convictions such as this would not be possible.

“At FACT we remain committed to protecting the rights of our partners in the audio-visual and sports industries, and we will seek out and prosecute individuals involved in such criminality.”

Tony Quigley, head of trading Standards at Birmingham City Council, said: “We welcome the 12-month custodial sentence and confiscation order in this case, especially given the judges’ comment that Merrell knew what he was doing was unlawful.

“Anyone who thinks they can get away with illegal streaming of subscription channels or pay-per-view events should take heed – next time it could be you facing a prison sentence and a hefty fine.”

FACT works with sports rights holders, broadcast partners, and others across the industry to investigate and prosecute suppliers of illegal streaming services and other IP crimes, as well as those accessing illegal content.

Illegal IPTV undermines broadcasters’ rights by diverting revenue streams, as it enables users to access premium content without proper compensation.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.