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British police crack down on modified Fire TV sticks

The Amazon Fire TV Lite streaming stick with Alexa-enabled voice remote. (Product photo courtesy Amazon/Graphic by The Desk)

British police interviewed nearly a dozen individuals who were allegedly connected to the development and sale of illegally-modified Amazon Fire TV sticks in the country.

Last week, police arrested one person and warned another 10 individuals over purported sales of the modified devices, which allow streamers to access services like Now TV, Amazon’s Prime Video and Netflix without payment.

Law enforcement agents with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) at City of London Police worked in partnership with Fact UK to carry out the interviews.

“Illegal streaming is a huge issue for the industry and while it may seem like a low-risk, high-reward crime, the proceeds are used to fund other serious forms of criminal activity,” Emma Warbey, a chief inspector with the PIPCU, said in a statement. “At the same time, it can expose end users to the risks of data theft, fraud and malware.”

Warbey said officers zeroed in on “grassroots sellers” and hoped the warnings and arrest would send “a clear message that this will not be tolerated.”

“PIPCU will continue to work with partners across law enforcement and the industry to take action against those who provide illegal streaming services and protect consumers against the risks associated with using them,” Warbey said.

Kieron Sharp, the CEO at Fact UK, credited the actions of law enforcement with helping to curb the development and sale of illegally-modified Amazon devices that are used to pirate video content.

“Piracy is a criminal act that is treated with utmost seriousness and decisive action will be taken against suppliers of illicit services regardless of their size or scale,” Sharp said in a statement. “We remain vigilant in monitoring platforms, including modified fire sticks that promote and distribute illegal streams, taking decisive action against those selling illegal access to premium TV content.”

The individuals who were interviewed by police last week were given a “legal caution,” which defers prosecution for an illegal act but puts the incident on a person’s criminal record. If individuals do not abide by the caution, they face full criminal prosecution for any prior and subsequent crimes in that specific matter.

Law enforcement officials said the interviews were conducted at numerous locations throughout the UK, including Portsmouth, Wales, Hartlepool, Middlesborough, Leeds, Manchester and Bury.

The crackdown was the latest involving Fact UK and local law enforcement agencies over the past several months. Last October, a similar raid targeting video pirates disrupted an illegal streaming service that had more than 1,000 paying customers.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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