Premier League fans who illegally stream matches online have been warned they could face up to a decade in jail as the new season kicks off.
The Premier League 2017/18 season began on Friday, with a number of games being shown live on Sky Sports and BT Sport this weekend.
However, football fans who try to illegally live stream matches are set for some tough penalties – thanks to a number of new laws.
Just weeks before the new season began, the Premier League was awarded a stunning High Court order to aid it in its battle against piracy.
The new blocking order requires UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to STOP people from illegally accessing live streams of matches.
Watford v Liverpool, Brighton v Manchester City, Newcastle v Tottenham and Manchester United v West Ham are all being shown on Sky Sports and BT Sport this weekend.
It follows the Premier League 2017/18 season opener of Arsenal v Leicester, shown on Sky Sports on Friday.
But the High Court order ISPs means people who illegally stream Premier League football matches could have their internet supply completely shut off.
It’s been dubbed the ‘biggest ever crackdown’ on illegal streaming and will help the Premier League clamp down on the use of fully-loaded Kodi boxes.
These devices come with illegal Kodi add-ons, which are in no way endorsed by Kodi, that lets people illegally live stream football matches.
Speaking to the BBC, Premier League Director of Legal Services Kevin Plumb said: “This blocking order is a game-changer in our efforts to tackle the supply and use of illicit streams of our content.”
Discussing the High Court order, he added: “It will allow us to quickly and effectively block and disrupt the illegal broadcast of Premier League football via any means, including so called ‘pre-loaded Kodi boxes.
“The protection of our copyright, and the investment made by our broadcast partners, is hugely important to the Premier League and the future health of English football.”
The Premier League blocking order came after online pirates were dealt another heavy blow by the courts earlier this year.
This year, illegal live streamers and Kodi users were left stunned after the Digital Economy Act became law.
Anyone caught sharing illegal files in the UK could now be sent to prison for up to 10 years.
Previously, the maximum jail term for copyright infringement was two years but this has now been increased to a maximum of 10.
Although the bill is mainly aimed at stopping those distributing content illegally, end users could also end up in trouble.
The European Court of Justice have also this year ruled that streaming copyrighted material for free on multimedia players such as Kodi is illegal.
Downloading pirated copies of movies, music, and television shows has always constituted copyright infringement.
However, streaming the same content was previously a legal grey area.
That’s because files that are stored temporarily – like those being created and constantly overwritten when streaming media content online – were technically exempt under copyright law.
This loophole enabled those who sold set-top boxes, like those powered by the Kodi media player software, to promote the easy facilitation of piracy via streaming.
But the landmark EU verdict means pirate streams are now on the same legal footing as illegal downloads.
Speaking about devices, such as Kodi, Kieron Sharp, FACT Chief Executive, said: “Consumers need to be aware that devices that allow you access to premium pay-for TV channels without a legitimate subscription, or access to films that are not yet available to rent or buy, are illegal.
“Whilst end users are not a target, they could get swept up in one of our operations and become part of the whole criminal investigation, which could lead to prosecution alongside the suppliers, retailers and importers.”
A recent study by YouGov suggests that over five million boxes are already in UK homes and that number is set to grow at an alarming rate.