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Football fans are putting themselves at risk of fines, prosecution and even prison sentences by illegally streaming Premier League games via set-top devices, new research has found.

A survey carried out by the BBC discovered that 47 per cent of fans have viewed a game through an unofficial provider at least once, while 36 per cent do it once a month at the minimum.

Younger viewers were most likely to stream matches via unauthorised devices such as Kodi boxes, with 65 per cent having done so.

The most common reasons given for illegal streaming were that friends or family were doing it, the quality was high and premium paid subscriptions were not representing good value for money.

However, Sky and BT Sport have paid a record £5.1 billion for the rights to screen live matches for three seasons and any other streams showing games are illegal.

The Premier League has warned that it will continue to protect its copyright and crack down on pirates who sell the boxes and stream content without permission.

Director general of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) Kieron Sharp told the BBC: "People need to be aware that this is no longer a grey area; in fact it is very black and white. 

"If you are accessing content for free such as sport, TV and films for which you'd normally need a subscription, or go to the cinema, or buy a DVD, this is illegal."

Research from YouGov previously found that around 4.9 million British adults have access to illegal TV streaming via apps or illicit Kodi boxes, with many consumers believing this can save them significant sums of money.

However, the recently introduced Digital Economy Bill increased the maximum prison sentence for copyright infringement to ten years, meaning many of these viewers could be putting themselves at risk of a criminal record.

There is also now no difference between streaming and downloading when it comes to copyright infringement, the European Court has said, and anyone doing so illegally can be investigated.

Kodi boxes are among the devices being cracked down on by FACT. Formerly known as XBMC, this is a set-top box or plug-in that has software for streaming installed on it. The boxes themselves are legal, but they become illegal to sell or buy when they are used to stream subscription channels for free or modified to allow access to subscription-only channels.

Anyone viewing content via Kodi is advised to check their settings and discontinue the viewing of content that should be paid for immediately.

Source: BBC

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