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British man gets prison for selling illegal set-top boxes

An anti-piracy billboard. (Image by Lord Jim via Flickr Creative Commons, Graphic: Descrier)
An anti-piracy billboard. (Image by Lord Jim via Flickr Creative Commons, Graphic: Descrier)

A British man living in Cyrpus has received more than four years in prison after being convicted on charges of designing and selling set-top boxes that enabled piracy.

Specifically, prosecutors say Michael Hornung of Greater Manchester sold streaming boxes that allowed customers to watch content from Sky, British Telecom (BT) and Virgin Media illegally, with none of the rights holders receiving payment for the redistribution of their content.

According to British police, Hornung operated his illegal TV storefront from 2014 to 2017, which culminated in a loss of £2 billion (around U.S. $2.54 billion) to rights holders. He earned around £350,000 (around $U.S. $443,700) in direct income from the scheme, British prosecutors said.

Hornung was arrested by local authorities in Cyprus around this time last year, and was extradited back to the United Kingdom to face charges. Last week, he was sentenced to four years and six months in prison, as well as a 12-week sentence for bail violations, bringing his total sentence to four years and nine months.

“Hornung’s criminal business provided customers the means to access premium TV without compensating broadcasters or those with intellectual property rights,” Kieron Sharp, the CEO of intellectual property investigative firm FACT UK, said in a statement. ” This conviction underscores our commitment to tackling fraud and piracy at all levels and ensuring that those responsible are held accountable. The extradition of Michael Hornung serves as a reminder that no one is beyond the reach of the law. FACT will be relentless in our pursuit of individuals who profit from illegal activities, regardless of where they seek refuge.”

“Hornung thought fleeing overseas would mean he would never have to face his crimes,” Tom Dowdall, the deputy director of the UK’s National Crime Agency, said this week. “However, the NCA’s international network regularly shares intelligence and works closely with overseas partners to apprehend those on the run. After liaison with law enforcement officers in Cyprus, Hornung has been returned to the UK to serve his sentence.”

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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 11 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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