The European Association for the Protection of Encrypted Works and Services, informs about a breakthrough judgement against Pay-TV piracy. Belgium prosecutors, joined by AEPOC member Sky Deutschland, have won a law suit against pirates, who sold illegal viewing cards to Germany and Austria during the years 2006 to 2008. The First Instance Court of Tongeren, Belgium ruled that two accused will be sent to prison for 18 and 8 months respectively. Two more individuals received suspended sentences while one person was found not guilty. In parallel Sky Deutschland is to receive a groundbreaking sum of more than 2 million Euros in damages, plus interest and other compensation payments. 1,850,000 Euros is to be paid by the central pirate in this case, who received the 18 months prison sentence, and by a legal entity. A further 180,000 Euros are to be paid by the pirate sentenced to 8 months in prison. The judgement is appealable.
It is the first ruling of this dimension, punishing Pay-TV pirates to a severe prison sentence as well as a strong payment for damages that have realistically occurred.
The Belgium court found the convicts guilty of having dealt with so-called "blank cards" during the years 2006 to 2008, that had the sole purpose to provide illegitimate viewing access to the Pay-TV offering of Sky Deutschland, operating under the Premiere brand at the time. The case dealt with more than 5,700 cards that were sold at a unit price of 75 Euros. In combination with a software available on the internet and consecutive updates the cards gave illegitimate access to Premiere, possibly during several years. The court rejected the strategy of the pirates and their lawyers claiming their blank cards were not a pirate device as such and therefore no violation of law. However, the public prosecutor proved the pirating purpose by providing various direct and circumstantial evidence.
AEPOC President Philippe-Olivier Rousseau commented: "It becomes crystal clear how detrimental piracy is to the Pay-TV industry looking at the sheer sum of damages to be paid within this single case alone, demonstrating the very criminal nature of Pay-TV piracy."
In particular the pirates violated the Flemish Decree on Radio and Television Broadcasting. This national law has integrated the provisions of the EU Conditional Access Directive to transpose it into national law. The CA-Directive is the cornerstone EU legislation for conditional access protected services such as Pay-TV. Also Copyright laws and provisions of the Belgium Criminal Code served as legal basis in this case which involved huge money laundering operations conducted by the pirates between Belgium and the city of Aachen in Germany.
President Rousseau continued: "Belgium law and enforcement prove effective for such complex law suits of cross-border Pay-TV piracy and industry crimes. In many other EU countries though we do not see such a satisfying functioning of the Conditional Access Directive and its implementation into national law. Accordingly, AEPOC works inside the European Union for the harmonisation of laws and the introduction of minimum thresholds for sanctions to underline that Pay-TV piracy is a severe crime."