To the dismay of sports fans, when they now click on channelsurfing.net for free, pirated NBA games and pay-per-view events, they’ll find a long announcement that starts: “This domain name has been seized by ICE — Homeland Security Investigations . . .”
The owner of channelsurfing, Brian McCarthy, was charged yesterday in federal court in New York with criminal copyright infringement.
Officials tell the Voice that this is the first time someone in New York City has been charged with illegally streaming live sports games. (He was charged in New York because the FBI was monitoring his computer from computers here).
Channelsurfing.net was one of the countless websites that sports fans love and professional sports leagues despise because they provide free pirated downloads of such popular stuff as pay-per-view UFC mixed-martial-arts events and live games from the NFL and NBA.
But the government, in response to pressure from major sports leagues, is starting to crack down on this type of piracy.
“On Feb. 2 federal investigators seized the domain names of 10 foreign-owned sites that had become hubs for sports fans looking for free sports broadcasts online,” writes Brad Stone of Bloomberg.
Still, it looks like a cat-and-mouse game. Within a few hours, all the pirate sites had moved to new Web addresses, outside of the reach of U.S. authorities.
It hasn’t been until fairly recently that providers of pirated content figured out the technology to stream live. The NFL reportedly took down 4,130 unauthorized live streams of its games during the 2010 season — a 67 percent jump from the total in 2009.
UFC officials, who make hundreds of millions a year just on PPV, are rejoicing at the news of the bust. As mmajunkie.com notes:
The UFC annually offers approximately a dozen PPV offerings and in 2010 earned an estimated $450 million in PPV revenue. The events cost $44.95 each ($55.95 for the HD version) both via cable/satellite providers and via official online outlets.