PIRATES who use Roku hardware to stream movies, television shows, and live sports coverage for free using the software’s private channels have been dealt a major blow.

Pirates who use Roku set-top boxes to stream paid-for television channels, on-demand movies and live sports without permission from the rightsholders have been cut-off, it has been revealed.

Cybercriminals were using the private channel functionality built into the Roku operating system to access illegal online streams.

These private channels were initially created to enable developers to test content in private before rolling it out to the public.

According to TechCrunch, Roku now pops-up a piracy-oriented warning whenever a user sets-up a private channel.

It stresses that private channels are to be used to stream "only legal content," and that Roku has the power to pull-down channels streaming illegal material to users around the world "without prior notice”.

Roku is not actively scanning content to check for illegal streams, but private channels dedicated to free streams of paid-for content are unlikely to last long following this announcement.

The company has already purged a number of channels.

TechCrunch reports that a number of popular pirate distributors have pre-emptively announced plans to ditch Roku on the assumption that their private channels are about to disappear.

This piracy crackdown was inevitable.

Roku is tipped to offer public stock in its company later this year, which means a thorough clean-up was in order – so investors don't perceive the media player hardware as a piracy haven.

Mexico also recently banned sales of Roku boxes over its pirate channels.

The renewed effort to crackdown on intellectual property theft could help the US company to reverse the ban

A spokesperson for Roku told Express.co.uk: “We want to encourage our customers to be careful when adding channels to their Roku accounts, and we do not recommend, promote or encourage use of any channels not found in the Roku Channel Store.

“Roku’s policies prohibit streaming content on our platform without distribution rights from the copyright holder.

“We are actively cooperating with the content community and other rights holders in their efforts to combat piracy. Roku has a portal for reporting copyright violations. Whenever Roku determines that a channel on our platform is violating copyrights, we take action, which can include disabling the entire channel without notice.

“If Roku determines that any channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku’s terms and conditions, then Roku may remove the channel without prior notice.”

The news follows Premier League bosses were granted a new High Court order – which they branded a “game-changer” in the crackdown on illegal streams.

Within minutes of the Premier League kicking off last weekend, thousands of those tuned into the illegal streams were suddenly confronted with blank screens.

Following the High Court order, UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are required to stop people illegally accessing live streams of matches online.

A similar order was obtained in time for the final two months of the 2016-17 season.

That saw more than 5,000 server IP addresses blocked almost immediately. Each of these servers had previously streamed Premier League content.

According to piracy blog TorrentFreak, a similar number of IP addresses were hit last weekend.