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Spanish Police take down pirate service The Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) has dismantled a large criminal network illegally distributing audio-visual content in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and laundering the criminal proceeds. The investigation, supported by Europol and Eurojust, also involved law enforcement authorities from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. At the beginning of June 2020, law enforcement authorities across the EU carried out 15 house searches, arrested 11 individuals (four in Spain, one in Germany, three in Sweden, three in Denmark) and interrogated 16 others for their possible involvement in the illegal scheme. The suspected leader of the criminal network is among those arrested. The raids resulted in the seizure of €4.8m, including properties worth more than €2m, four cars worth about half a million euros, luxury watches, cash, cryptocurrencies and electronic equipment. Law enforcement The criminals were offering illegally more than 40,000 TV channels, movies, documentaries and other digital content authorities took down 50 IP addresses and part of the online criminal infrastructure while 11 bank accounts totalling €1.1m were also frozen. The investigation into the activities of the criminal network started in 2019 when the Policía Nacional detected several websites illegally distributing audio-visual content in different countries across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The distribution of the illegal services, in breach with intellectual property rights, was set up via Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and managed from Spain. A ‘coalition’ of La Liga, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, Nordic Content, NAGRA and the Bundesliga (DFL), legitimate holder of the rights to audiovisual content offered fraudulently, supported the investigation. The criminals were offering illegally more than 40,000 TV channels, movies, documentaries and other digital content via websites hosted on an international network of servers. The illegal service was made available through an attractive web environment at prices much more competitive than the ones on the legal market. The criminal network had even put in place a sophisticated technical assistance and quality control through their own customer support online platform. More than two million subscribers were receiving these illegal services bringing profits at an estimated €15m. The investigation focused on shutting down the servers and disconnecting the IP addresses. According to Europol, this is a first example of the synergies created by the merger of different teams comprised of economic and financial experts under the new European Financial and Economic Crime Centre recently created at Europol. “We are grateful to the Spanish National Police and all involved in this operation for working together to protect and defend content owner rights,” said Melcior Soler, audiovisual director at LaLiga. “Piracy is a global problem and it’s critical for the industry as whole to come together to fight it, share knowledge and leverage key partnerships and anti-piracy technologies to preserve high-quality content for our fans – whether it’s in sports or other types of entertainment. Together we can make a difference and alter the piracy landscape.” “The DFL welcomes this transnational anti-piracy operation that comes at the same time major European championships resume their activities, added Dr Holger Blask, director audiovisual rights at DFL. “Tackling large pirate operations at the source is a key component in the fight against large-scale content theft. We are glad the industry is more and more united against piracy, in this case both the sports and the content industries joined efforts to make it happen”. “We applaud the Spanish National Police for leading this anti-piracy effort to a successful outcome,” commented Pascal Métral, VP legal affairs and head of anti-piracy investigations, intelligence and litigation at NAGRA. “These results could not have been achieved without close collaboration between all stakeholders – content owners, governmental entities and anti-piracy companies – and is a clear demonstration of how such efforts can have a real impact on stopping the spread of commercial piracy. All parties say this latest success further illustrates the importance of a close partnership between content owners, operators, technology providers, policy makers and governments, to make real strides in the battle against piracy and to protect all media and entertainment industry stakeholders’ legitimate business. Ofcom: Social video app usage surges in lockdown UK adults spent a quarter of their waking day online during lockdown – a record high – according to research from Ofcom. During April, adults spent an average of four hours a day online, up from three-and-a-half on September 2019, the communications watchdog reported. Seven in 10 people made video calls at least once a week during lockdown with Zoom, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger apps used the most. Meanwhile, Twitch, the livestreaming platform for gamers, saw visitors increase from 2.3m in January to 4.2m in April. TikTok, which allows users to create and share short videos, reached 12.9m UK visitors in April, up from 5.4m in January. The research also shows that people are no longer just passive consumers, with two in five adults uploading videos to TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat or Instagram. “Lockdown may leave a lasting digital legacy,” suggests Yih-Choung The, Ofcom’s director of strategy and research. “Coronavirus has radically changed the way we live, work and communicate online, with millions of people using online video services for the first time.” EUROMEDIA 9