Since the loss of UK TV channels provisioned over satellite many households have subscribed to IPTV services provided via MAG250 and MAG254 boxes - some of these services provide UK freeview channels some of them provide a full SKY package with full catch-up and access to box sets but not a single penny is paid to SKY and the subscription charges are often half the cost (without contractual obligations) of the related SKY subscription. Are users in the Algarve and Spain unaware of the implications here - previously many users in the Algarve and southern Spain would subscribe to SKY but have their dish and set-top box located outside of the UK; here was a grey area: a SKY subscription was being paid but technically SKY dont have a license to broadcast in Portugal/Spain etc. "Dont plug the phone line in" and "dont call SKY UK support" was common advice to users, they had become comfortable that, although an infringement of broadcasting agreements, SKY were being paid and only a technical peculiarity (the transmission beam of the old Astra satellite reaching southern Europe) made it possible; no one was losing out - no harm, no foul.

The current situation with some of these IPTV services feels a bit different. Is it legal?

Separate to this short term solution for expats and holiday home owners in the Algarve and southern Europe, the last few years have seen a monumental shift in provisioning of "TV" content over the internet. The rise of Netflix, Amazon prime, HULU, Now TV, Sky Go, Iplayer, the list goes on - these are subscription channels providing the latest and greatest content (and often owning the rights to huge back catalogs of TV shows, box sets and movies) and LIVE sporting events - have you ever wondered why the BBC/ITV show so many repeats (how often can you show Clear and Present Danger on a Saturday night?)? - they dont have access (i.e. they dont/cant pay) to screen the latest most popular content - they still have enough money to make there own series but anything popular not self produced goes straight to SKY, Netflix, Amazon etc - they have the money, they are the future for TV content.

With so much money on the line (SKY and BT pay over GBP5 BILLION a year to screen Premier League matches alone), its not hard to imagine the current "unofficial" IPTV services are likely to be at risk. IPTV and restreaming has been around for yonks - the only difference now is it seems to be becoming more mainstream. We all know the fate of file sharing/torrenting as it moved from the domain of nerdy enthusiasts sharing the latest film from the back of the cinema to billions of music files being shared by Napster / Pirate Bay and the like. Many said they would never stop it but fast forward a few years, many popular file sharing sites have been shut down, ISPs block access to sites (eg Pirate Bay), ISPs are forced to send letters to users identified as file sharing and SONY et al have taken 16 year olds to court for sharing a few songs.

The worry here is whether similar tactics will be adopted in the world of IPTV services negatively affecting users in the Algarve and southern Spain. They have already had the inconvenience of losing UK TV channels, then the cost of buying new IPTV boxes and subscriptions, it would be seriously frustrating a similar thing happens again.

IPTV Server Location
Many IPTV users might be surprised to learn the location of the re-streaming servers are not where you might have been told - either a direct connection or redirected through a third party in another country (like the UK or Spain), the actual servers are usually physically located in a country outside of EU legislation to prevent take down orders.
What's a take down order?
Sound like something you dont want to be caught up in just to watch UK TV? European broadcasters like SKY can issue a "request" to ISPs like British Telecom in the UK to prevent access to certain sites identified as illegally sharing content - these requests are much harder to implement outside of EU regulation. Broadcasters also physically contact illegal content sharers with cease and desist orders - it's alot harder to convince a policeman in A N country outside of the EU to kick a door down on the request of SKY TV. IPTV streamers know this and use it to there advantage to provide uninterrupted service.

When you start looking into the infrastructure in place to deal with content restreamers its obvious the way this is heading, there is even a City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) set up to take down illegal live TV broadcasts! Even the people who sell MAG boxes that are sold with preinstalled apps to access free streaming content have been raided ( - that's one way to deal with it I suppose but hopefully resellers here in the Algarve are not targeted in the same way.

Digital Watermark

Often in situations like this, technology is developed and utilised by the big corporations to fight the piracy for example the addition of a unique digital watermark from a set top box allowing broadcasters like SKY to know which account is rebroadcasting their content and shut down the account accordingly - they also know that (like torrenting/music file sharing) if you can create a few scary headlines, the majority of users will relent and pay for the content - you'll never stop everyone but the returns diminish when you go after the last 1-2%.

Whatever your opinion on the cost of subscription TV, TV licensing, how much they pay sports stars and film stars, accessing something you know you dont pay for has high risks. What is the answer? The cost of subscribing to even the biggest online content providers is actually quiet reasonable - whats more is you get to watch what you want, when you want - no more highlighting the TV guide and planning your events around the schedule; that business model is quickly dying out..... will the BBC be a subscription channel within the next 10 years? Will the Premier League have its own subscription channel? Will there be a dedicated Coronation Street channel with a small monthly subscription fee? Some seem to think so.