A study by Euipo in 2019 shows that an estimated 19% of Luxembourg residents illegally stream or download content. (Photo: Shutterstock)

A study by Euipo in 2019 shows that an estimated 19% of Luxembourg residents illegally stream or download content. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The demand for Internet Protocol television boxes has exploded. They allows streaming access to thousands of TV channels without going through the legal services provided by operators like Post, Tango or Orange.

"With an IPTV box, you can follow all the football matches in the world. I don't know if there is a link with the Euro, but it's true that since the beginning of the year, I have had more and more requests," says Martin. He "makes ends meet" by selling pre-programmed boxes for €120. A subscription of €100 per year is required for access to thousands of TV channels and a video on demand service. The "customer" receives his Internet Protocol television box by post a few days later, ready to be connected to his television and the Internet.

This practice is totally illegal and has left the country's telecom operators seething. "For the past two years, I have been selling about ten IPTV boxes per month," Martin says.

Luxembourg above the European average

A major problem in dealing with this piracy is that detecting IPTV boxes is extremely difficult. It is therefore equally difficult to assess the number of users. "A Euipo study dating from 2019 suggests that the percentage of Luxembourg resident who use streaming or illegal downloading of content is 19%, i.e. 10 points higher than the European average," Post Luxembourg points out. It further explains that it "does not have information on the number of illegal IPTV boxes used in Luxembourg and has not quantified the loss of revenue from these activities for Post."

A French study dating from 2018 estimates the revenues from illegal streaming players at European level at nearly €1 billion.

To spot illegal streaming or downloading, an official operator needs to know the IP addresses of the servers transmitting the streams and then must monitor whether these servers are accessed by its customers.

"Nevertheless, Post takes the problem seriously and remains in contact with organisations representing rights holders to take action against resellers of such illegal services," the operator warns. "Post has also identified several illegal streaming activities at national level in the past and notified them by bailiff's letter. Almost all of the offenders have ceased their activities following the notification. Some of Post's partners, such as Alteox, have monitoring tools that allow them to identify streaming services originating in Luxembourg, thus enabling international partner channels to fight piracy locally.”

Tango is following the same tactical line. "Streaming without the consent of the rights holders is strictly illegal. There have been arrests again recently via Interpol and the collective work of different police forces in Europe. On the other hand, the companies providing this type of service are generally based in countries with few controls. The user therefore takes risks with regard to his banking information, for example,” the operator explains.

Real risks, at several levels

The end consumer who just watches TV risks as much as the reseller. The Court of Justice of the European Union  issued a ruling on 26 April 2017 stating that "the sale of a player which allows illegal streaming to be watched on a television screen constitutes copyright infringement". Therefore, the seller of an illegal box is guilty of copyright infringement. All parties--the broadcaster at source, the intermediary who resells the box and a subscription and, finally, the final consumer--involved in the infringement process are liable for prosecution.

Local telecom operators point out that in addition to being illegal, there are also  technical and financial risks. "Using a pirate box can constitute a breach in the security of the installation. If it contains malicious code, the box could allow a hacker to access the Smart TV used to watch the stream. These Smart TVs can be poorly secured, and can be turned against their users, for example by giving out information or spying on them," Post Luxembourg explains.

"A possible scam cannot be excluded. The user will communicate his bank details to pay [for the box], with all the risks that this implies in respect of the unreliability of the pirate provider. Moreover, the user will be deprived of recourse if the service does not correspond [to what has been promised], in particular because the service concerned is often located abroad, outside the protective legislation of Luxembourg or Europe."