One Briton and a Thai national have pleaded guilty to infringing the Premier League’s copyright in Thailand and have paid significant damages totalling THB15million (about £385,000), in addition to almost THB7million in seized funds being forfeited to the State.
They have also been sentenced to pay over THB3million and sentenced to a total of three-and-a-half-years’ suspended prison sentences for crimes related to running the illegal operation.
The THB15million is believed to be one of the highest damage compensations ever paid in Thailand for copyright infringement.
The defendants pleaded guilty to multiple offences arising from their supply of illegal broadcasts, which included operating a major piracy network across Asia.
Hong Kong origins
The case began in Hong Kong but undercover investigations led to the hub of the operation being discovered in Thailand.
The various websites, which were managed from Bangkok under a banner of Expat.tv and affiliated domains, provided access to illegal streams of Premier League matches across southeast Asia including Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.
They were also responsible for selling illegal streaming devices, which were preloaded with apps enabling pirate broadcasts of Premier League football.
Two British men were arrested in a series of large-scale co-ordinated police raids at a residential address in Bangkok in May 2017. A local Thai woman was subsequently apprehended.
These raids were undertaken by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation and assisted by the Premier League. One of the Britons arrested skipped bail and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, as well as for multiple other suspects.
The various charges pursued by the public prosecutor included: copyright infringement, interception of data, operating as an unlicensed broadcaster and operating an unlawful business.
"This is one of the most substantial compensations for piracy-related crimes in Thailand and is a stark warning to anyone involved in the illegal supply of Premier League streams," Premier League Director of Legal Services Kevin Plumb said.
"Attitudes towards, and acceptance of, these types of operators in Asia is changing, which is good news for fans who watch Premier League content through legitimate channels.
"Those who don’t should be aware that subscribing to services run by organised crime gangs means they risk, not just the content disappearing when the service gets disrupted by legal action, but also exposing themselves to the threat of fraud and malware.
"We are committed to pursuing all those involved in providing illegal access to our content and are grateful to the Courts and the public prosecutor for acknowledging and supporting the importance of fighting piracy.
'Damage to local economies'
Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation is one of the leading anti-piracy forces we work with and we thank them and the public prosecutor for their support in prosecuting this case."
Police Colonel Paisit Wongmuang, Director-General of Department of Special Investigation said: "Executives at the Ministry of Justice place importance on the Digital Economy Promotion Policy, especially for the suppression of copyright infringement on digital platforms - it causes serious damage to the economies of Thailand and foreign countries.
"For this case, the DSI accepted it as a special case in 2015. On 11 May 2017, the DSI’s Technology and Cyber Crime Bureau conducted a raid action at 5 different locations and consequently arrested two British nationals and a Thai national for further investigation.
"After the investigation was completed, the three arrested individuals were transferred to the public prosecutor for prosecution until the Court granted its decision.
"The DSI has been investigating many copyright infringement cases where Thailand has been used as the base with advanced technology being implemented as a tool to commit the crime."
"Piracy is not a victimless crime"
True Visions Executive Vice Chairman, Sompan Charumilinda, spoke to the bigger picture of piracy in Thailand, adding, "Piracy is not a victimless crime, as the crime syndicates that run these operations do great damage to Thailand’s economy and reputation, and even target end users through spyware and malware.
"Thai people are talented and have great potential to contribute to the creative economy and compete on a global level, but their efforts need to be supported by strong intellectual property protections.
"On this front, we would like to thank the Department of Special Investigations for their continued support. We are happy to join forces with the English Premier League and all stakeholders to continue the fight against piracy, in hopes of building a brighter future for the creative economy and the entire nation."
The Premier League operates a comprehensive copyright protection programme and will investigate and pursue suppliers of illegal streaming services. The League’s office in Singapore provides a base for the Asia-Pacific region to support broadcast partners and to fight piracy of Premier League content.
If you know or suspect a website is showing Premier League matches illegally or someone that is supplying illicit streaming devices then you can report this directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.