Middlesbrough Kodi Box Seller Avoids Jail Time, Gets Suspended Sentence Instead

By Tom Pritchard on at

In your regularly scheduled Kodi news, Friday afternoon saw the sentencing for what would have been a landmark legal case on the topic of enabling Kodi piracy. Brian Thompson, a Middlebrough-based seller of so-called fully-loaded Kodi boxes, pleaded guilty and was handed an 18-month prison sentence that's suspended for two years.

Thompson was originally prosecuted last September, after his shop in Middlebrough was raided by police and Trading Standards in 2015. He initially declared his innocence, and seemed intent on going down as some sort of Kodi martyr to test the full limits of the law. After all, as the EFF has noted in the past, prosecutions that focus on streaming piracy (such as that enabled by unofficial Kodi add-ons) are uncharted legal territory.

Thompson himself was adamant that the sales were a 'grey area' (spoiler: they're really not), and he intended to argue this case in court to test the limits of the law.

“This may have to go to the crown court and then it may go all the way to the European court, but I want to make a point with this and I want to make it easier for people to know what is legal and what isn’t. I expect it go against me but at least I will know where I stand.”

His trial was set to be a landmark case but, after changing his plea to guilty at the end of September, that trial was cancelled. As TorrentFreak points out, there would have been no question of his guilt had the charges been more straightforward and focused on the issue that he was making the piracy-enabling boxes available (a crime under the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act). The EU had already determined that selling boxes that enable piracy is illegal within the union.

Instead the prosecution (from his local council, rather than rights holders), charged Thompson with two offences under section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, dealing devices and services designed to “circumvent technological measures”. It sounds similar, but it's a different section of copyright law that's so far only been applying to cases that have seen encryption broken on official products.

"A person commits an offence if he — in the course of a business — sells or lets for hire, any device, product or component which is primarily designed, produced, or adapted for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of effective technological measures."

According to the prosecution Thompson made £40,000 selling the boxes, which is claimed to have lost Sky £200,000 in lost subscription fees. How they could say with 100 per cent certainty that these customers would have still paid for Sky in the first place is unknown at this point.

As reported by Gazette Live, Judge Armstrong told the court:

“If anyone was under any illusion as to whether such devices as these, fully loaded Kodi boxes, were illegal or not, they can no longer be in any such doubt. I’ve come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances an immediate custodial sentence is not called for. But as a warning to others in future, they may not be so lucky.”

Also sentenced on Friday was Julian Allen, owner of Middlebrough-based Geeky kit, who reportedly earned £135,000 from the sale of fully-loaded Kodi boxes. He too avoided jail time, with a 21-moth prison sentence suspended for two years.

Both sentences are fairly lenient, particularly since cases of copyright infringement have been known to be overly harsh. Still the message is clear. Despite Thompson's case not being the legal landmark people had hoped it would be, anyone profiting from piracy should remember that what they're doing is illegal. And breaking the law has consequences. [TorrentFreak]

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