Crackdown on Live Streaming of Sporting Events

by Jason Fischer

This week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shut down a number of websites that were offering live streams of professional sporting events (source).  The central claim was that the video delivered through those websites is protected by copyrights.

While I’m sure there are some hippies those out there who would take the position that a sporting event can’t be copyrighted (I’ve read some off-the-wall legal articles that take such a position), I am firmly in the camp that believes the recorded video is absolutely the kind of thing that Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, was drafted to cover.  My main problem here is that, rather than developing an effective way to reach every viewer who wants to enjoy their broadcasts, professional sports associations go crying to their congressman or the U.S. attorney about how their shitty business model is not making as much money as it used to.

Wake the fuck up, asssholes.  We live in a world where on-demand, high-definition video is a viable option.  I watch crap on my iPad while taking a crap — and I couldn’t be happier that this has become technologically possible.  I should be able to watch whatever I want, whenever I want, and wherever I want to watch it.  If I wanna watch “The Leap Home” at 3:45am on Tuesday, then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to.  Charge me a fee for it; I’m okay with that — but quit complaining about piracy, when you are actively blocking viewers from consuming your product.

11 Responses to Crackdown on Live Streaming of Sporting Events

  1. Andrew says:

    First, remind me never to borrow your iPad.

    Second, I find it humorous that ICE thinks that taking a domain actually does a damned thing to stop the problem. If you know the site’s IP address (and a lot of people engaging in this sort of thing are tech savvy) the domain is meaningless. It’s also incredibly easy to simply register a new domain and continue your activities.

    In fact, most of the seized sites are still up and running with new domains. It’s like arresting a 12 year old kid with a pot brownie and patting yourself on the back for making a dent in the drug trade.

    Pissing in the wind. They’re just wasting our tax dollars pissing in the wind.

  2. blueollie says:

    This goes to show you, even a right wing creationist grade doofus* will sometimes write something worth reading.

    (*) that was for the “hippie” put down. :)

  3. Tim says:

    I couldn’t agree more. It’s hilarious to me that when streaming from these sites (from what my friends tell me) you still watch the commercials. Seems like all the networks need to do is get a count and up their ad fees accordingly.

  4. Upper1 says:

    Luckily NFL Football season is all but over. Now I only have eight months or so to find 15 more similar websites…

  5. Bad Monkey says:

    Lets keep it simple, copyright is all about controlling publication.

    Would you be pissed if someone was stealing your creative work and the violator’s (or their applauders) response was, well you should just do what I want you to do so that I wouldn’t be able to take it and violate your copyright.

    As an attorney what would you advise a client in that predicament?

    All publishers “actively block” some possible consumers when they make choices of how to publish. They will always be actively blocking some consumers when they exercise or protect that right in any manner other than simply releasing to the public domain.

    Don’t like it? Don’t watch, buy, or support them at all.

    • Good Monkey says:

      As an attorney, your advice should be based not only on your client’s legal rights but on what makes sense financially as well. Personally, I’d inform my client that while they had the legal right to go after infringers this way, it’s a losing battle in stemming piracy given the ease with which both consumers and providers can find alternatives. I’d point to the music industry’s abject failure to make money by enforcing their copyrights and being slow to adopt to changing business environment. It’s like the drug war, decades of attacking the supply side and harsh penalties hasn’t done shit to stem the tide. You want to deal with a problem, you attack the reasons for consumption. Plus, you hold onto, if not gain, goodwill by offering new products and not treating your fans like criminals.

      Thats the problem with all this fucking copyright litigation, so many of these attorneys are simply looking to tie up their clients in endless legal fees on litigation and lobbying when they should be honest with them about the efficacy of these strategies.

      • Bad Monkey says:

        I agree with you in that litigation can be a bad call, especially when their is no (little) hope of recovery. I didn’t mean to suggest an attorney should always try and sue those who infringe.

        They actually made a wiser choice from the standpoint of their own interests. Rather than paying the full cost they got Uncle Sam to do it on the cheap. Isn’t that a kick in the head, even if you never provide the NFL any business if you pay taxes you helped them in their fight.

        I do think they should find a better(different) way of going about business. But bitching that they want to protect their rights, because we don’t like how they exercise them. Well, I was a bit surprised to read that from an attorney whose practice “is focused on intellectual property protection.” (emphasis mine)

        Perhaps he would advise clients in protecting their property to simply ensure they create an more thorough system designed to thwart piracy using data encryption and such. You know, more actively block possible consumers.

        Of course ruining people who infringe in order to develop a sense of fear of reprisal could be a part of a robust anti-piracy campaign. But it would have to be a constant, consistently applied threat to have a profound affect (unproven assertion I know, but a commonly accepted one it seems).

        While no(few?) individual could afford to do it, I think it could be more effectively done with the resources of the federal government. And while the RIAA has failed by going after individuals, going after the re-broadcasters using the policing powers of the government could have an affect. Don’t go after the drug users, go after the suppliers.

        By the way, I also agree with marcorandazza, making the games copyrighted seems a stretch of the relevant parts of the Constitution to me. But I can respect how one could that it is within what is allowed by statute.

        But it does seem far beyond promoting “the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” as Mr. Fischer first referenced.

  6. I’m with Bad Monkey. Perhaps NFL games are not copyrightable — I do think that live broadcast copyright seems a bit beyond the Copyright Clause.

    Nevertheless, if we accept that it is copyrightable, then the copyright owner ought to have the right to control its distribution to channels it approves of.

    Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that the NFL’s position on this is sort of retarded. I don’t want fucking cable TV in my house. I do, however, want to watch NFL games. Therefore, I’m presented with a pretty shitty choice — do I buy cable (to watch out of town games that I can’t get over the air), go to a bar every Sunday, or do I go to ADTHE.net?

    While I like the bar idea, and went most weekends, some weekends I just wanted to watch a game at home — so ADTHE it was.

    Now, that was a bit of a pain in the ass in itself. But, if the NFL put the stream on its website, and charged me $10 to watch the game, I’d have been delighted to pay it. Hell, if I went to a bar, I would always drop $50 to $100 on my food and beer for the day anyhow.

    So, the NFL needs to get with the program. I have no love nor respect for those who steal copyrighted materials. But, I do find them to be on the right side when the content isn’t actually for sale in a reasonable medium.

    • Mediocre Monkey (formerly Good Monkey) says:

      I guess I shouldn’t have chosen this moniker and expected it to be understood otherwise, but I actually wasn’t arguing the NFL was on the wrong side here. Serves me right – apologies to Bad Monkey.

      I agree they have the absolute legal right to control distribution of their content. But they’re being short-sighted to expect enforcing the right is going to do them much of any good. Again, I point to the music industry. What average person had even heard of the RIAA before their war on downloading? And what good has it done them? Their reputation has about as much cache as Mubarak’s and how are CD sales doing these days, anyways?

      Perhaps I’m being naive (I was only admitted to the bar in November) but my point was simply that as attorneys we should advise clients with their long term interests in mind, not simply who/how they can sue when their angry.

  7. [...] this post points out, there is both demand and technology to distribute most every recorded video, ever, [...]

  8. [...] Shutting down sites like channelsurfing.net isn’t enough. ¬† The government is now pursuing those sites’ operators, such as Bryan McCarthy, for criminal copyright infringement. ¬†”Hang ‘em high!” May be the rallying cry of some producers, but the funds used for criminal legal defense and assets forfeited to the government in a plea deal or upon conviction are all things that copyright holders won’t get in civil damages. ¬†Servers, real property, and anything else used in running a site that the government confiscates under its ill-defined conception of rogue websites all go to the government – and there are a lot of ways the government ensures it receives this property. [...]

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