NSW Police conduct pirate TV sting

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NSW Police conduct pirate TV sting
Police raid the Hurstville premises.

The New South Wales Police yesterday raided a Sydney-based business accused of acting as the Australian sales arm of a global pirate television ring believed to generate $150 million in annual revenue.

Police took one male into custody during the raid.

Private investigators representing TVB Group, one of the world’s largest providers of Asian language content, claim to have purchased a set-top box and pay TV service from a business registered as L&D LED Signs in Hurstville Sydney.

Broadcast from servers in China, the unlicensed service offers more than 1000 streaming television channels plus video-on-demand, including a trove of popular Asian language TV channels.

Popular US channels are also offered, including HBO, MTV, ESPN, The Discovery Channel, Fox and CNN. The service provides access to free-to-air programs such as The Family Guy and How I Met Your Mother and on-demand copies of movies including Hangover II, Mr Popper’s Penguins and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The set-top box was sold to Australians for $500 and the streaming service at $90 per month. It will be alleged that between subscription sales and advertising on the service, it generates in excess of $150 million a year.

It will be alleged that the Hurstville-based business and its occupants act as the Australian sales arm of the global pirate ring, which has in excess of 100,000 customers around the world.

A forensic analysis of the set-top box found that it was a standard embedded PC system connecting to a peer-to-peer streaming service called Vatata, based in mainland China.

Michael Speck, former director of the Music Industry Piracy Investigations group described the raid as “a fundamental departure from what other content owners have done” in Australia to tackle piracy.

Previously, content owners had assumed that there was “no way to prosecute peer-to-peer pirates”, but shutting down regional sales offices which sell the set-top boxes and manage subscriptions would provide significant deterrents.

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