Thursday, 9 March 2017

Famous Hartlepudlians

When I was an articled clerk (for the benefit of young people, this was what we used to call trainee solicitors) in Teesside (not, note, "Teeside"), and many of the firm's clients frequented the crown court there, it was scarcely imaginable that it would be the venue for a copyright case. But there was nothing criminal in the copyright law in those days, so no reason for the idea to cross our minds.
Now a man from my home town - indeed, a short distance from my old family home, from a road down which we walked the dog every evening - has been convicted of an offence under (presumably) section 297A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, having advertised and sold adapted IPTV boxes - which were designed to enable users to receive encrypted broadcasts without paying the broadcaster for the privilege. As well as a ten-month "bender", as I recall suspended sentences were called in the days of my articles (his sentence being suspended for 12 months), a Proceeds of Crime Order required him to pay £80,000 and costs of £170,000 were also awarded against him. Painful.
The prosecution was brought by Hartlepool Trading Standards department, following an investigation by the National Trading Standards North East Enforcement Team. The original referral came from FACT, which appears now to be the full name of what was the Federation against Copyright Theft - one of those organisations whose names make me cringe but who do, at least sometimes, a good and useful job. Mr Mayes, the defendant, had been caught selling these boxes to pubs and clubs all over the place, placing advertisements which claimed they were "100% legal". He charged £1,000 each, which is probably an attractive price compared with the fee a broadcaster would charge for the sort of public showing licence a pub or club would need. The FACT report ( says that often they didn't even work - perhaps his business model relied on the customers not going legal over something which was pretty clearly illegal, whatever his advertising stated.
Trademarks and Brands Online's report, which is where I first read about the case but which contains nothing not in FACT's press release except the misspelling, is here.

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