Following a ruling by the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court in Bangkok, the two men are to pay damages totalling B15 million, in addition to forfeiting almost B7mn in funds seized, reports the Department of Special Investigation (DSI).
The two men have also been sentenced to pay over B3mn and sentenced to a total of three-and-a-half-years’ suspended prison sentences for crimes related to running the illegal operation, which broadcast the games through websites and charged monthly subscriptions for members to view them.
The B15mn is believed to be one of the highest damage compensations ever paid in Thailand for copyright infringement, reported DSI Director-General Pol Col Paisit Wongmuang.
Premier League’s Asia Pacific Region Business Chief Matthew Cheetham and Commercial Law Advisor Sean Godfrey met Col Phaisit on Friday (Nov 29) to thank him and the agency for arresting and prosecuting the two men.
The defendants pleaded guilty to multiple offences arising from their supply of illegal broadcasts, which included operating a major piracy network across Asia.
Hong Kong origins
The case began in Hong Kong but undercover investigations led to the hub of the operation being discovered in Thailand, explained the Premier League in their announcement of the arrests and subsequent sentences handed down.
The various websites, which were managed from Bangkok under a banner of Expat.tv and affiliated domains, provided access to illegal streams of Premier League matches across southeast Asia including Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.
The DSI in their report identified the associated domains as www.365sport.tv and other five websites: Thaiexpat.tv, Hkexpat.tv, Indoexpat.tv, Vietexpat.tv and Euroexpat.tv.
The suspects were also responsible for selling illegal streaming devices, which were preloaded with apps enabling pirate broadcasts of Premier League football.
Two British men were arrested in a series of large-scale co-ordinated police raids at a residential address in Bangkok in May 2017. A local Thai woman was subsequently apprehended.
One of the Britons arrested skipped bail and a warrant has been issued for his arrest, as well as for multiple other suspects, the Premier League reported.
The various charges pursued by the public prosecutor included: copyright infringement, interception of data, operating as an unlicensed broadcaster and operating an unlawful business.
The DSI specified the charges as breach of Section 8 of the Computer Crimes Act 2017 for broadcasting “non-public” data and without rights and beach of Section 29 of the Copyright Act 1994 for broadcasting “non-public” data in public for charging money or other commercial benefits.
Col Paisit said that the DSI is currently investigating many other piracy cases which are based in Thailand.
“This is done in accordance with government policy and the Ministry of Justice, which pays much attention to promoting the digital economy policy focusing on the suppression of digital media piracy,” he said.
“This is one of the most substantial compensations for piracy-related crimes in Thailand and is a stark warning to anyone involved in the illegal supply of Premier League streams,” Premier League Director of Legal Services Kevin Plumb said.
“Attitudes towards, and acceptance of, these types of operators in Asia is changing, which is good news for fans who watch Premier League content through legitimate channels.
“Those who don’t should be aware that subscribing to services run by organised crime gangs means they risk, not just the content disappearing when the service gets disrupted by legal action, but also exposing themselves to the threat of fraud and malware.
“We are committed to pursuing all those involved in providing illegal access to our content and are grateful to the Courts and the public prosecutor for acknowledging and supporting the importance of fighting piracy.
True Visions Executive Vice Chairman, Sompan Charumilinda, spoke to the bigger picture of piracy in Thailand, adding, "Piracy is not a victimless crime, as the crime syndicates that run these operations do great damage to Thailand’s economy and reputation, and even target end users through spyware and malware.
"Thai people are talented and have great potential to contribute to the creative economy and compete on a global level, but their efforts need to be supported by strong intellectual property protections.
“On this front, we would like to thank the Department of Special Investigations for their continued support. We are happy to join forces with the English Premier League and all stakeholders to continue the fight against piracy, in hopes of building a brighter future for the creative economy and the entire nation.”
The Premier League operates a comprehensive copyright protection programme and will investigate and pursue suppliers of illegal streaming services, the Premier League warned on its website.
“The League’s office in Singapore provides a base for the Asia-Pacific region to support broadcast partners and to fight piracy of Premier League content,” the warning added.