Digital TV pirates to pay six-figure sum to UPC

2 Dec 2008

A firm caught illegally distributing digital TV boxes and software codes that would give free access to digital TV channels has been ordered to pay a six-figure sum to UPC Ireland and Nagravision.

The settlement between UPC Ireland and Nagravision in a case against Thomas Roddy, a large-scale distributor of illegal digital boxes in Ireland, brings to conclusion an investigation that began in November 2006.

A covert investigation, codenamed Operation Gaelic, revealed an extensive distribution network managed by Thomas Roddy, which involved the sale of illegal digital boxes and distribution of software codes that give access to digital TV subscription channels for free.

Both UPC and Swiss firm Nagravision SA, a Kudelski Group company, is firmly convinced that such legal actions are necessary in order to prevent the development of large-scale industrial piracy.

UPC said it is aware that these fraudsters have a wide-ranging underground distribution network, which supports this illegal activity.

“Some consumers using these boxes on our network may be unaware that this is a civil wrong and criminal offence under Irish law,” said Robert Dunn, CEO of UPC Ireland.

“This investigation has also disclosed detailed intelligence of Roddy’s Irish distribution chain and individuals that purchased from this source. UPC is currently considering next steps as part of its ongoing anti-piracy investigations.”

Dunn suggested some ambivalence may exist in public opinion as to the seriousness of the crime of TV piracy.

“This may appear to be a victimless offence, but in reality, this causes substantial damage to legitimate Irish enterprises, which has an impact on people’s livelihoods. Like any black market activity, this act has serious financial consequences for the economy as a whole.”

The case centres on infringement of Section 9 of the 1990 Broadcasting Act, and the remedies available under Section 15 of the same act deeming it illegal to use, sell or distribute decoders that intercept a protected TV signal.

In accordance with terms of the settlement, Thomas Roddy has agreed to pay a substantial six-figure sum and undertake not to engage in the import or sale of decoders. He has also been ordered over the next two years to work with UPC and Nagravision to disclose details of his distribution network and suppliers from outside Ireland.

“We have always and will continue to provide significant support to our customers in taking legal action against pay TV pirates,” said André Kudelski, chairman and chief executive officer of the Kudelski Group and Nagravision.

“This case should act as a serious warning to others to steer clear of this type of activity. We take this matter extremely seriously in every part of the world, and will continue to work closely to protect our customers’ revenues and our respective legitimate commercial interests.”

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years