As you will almost certainly know, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE seized a number of live streaming sites on Tuesday. Among them were perennial football favorites ATDHE, Channel Surfing, and Rojadirecta, though as Deadspin noted, Rojadirecta is not a U.S.-based site and it has been ruled legal in Spain, where it principally operates. Obviously this is leaving many football fans in something of a tizzy and asking a lot of questions: why did the U.S. government choose to do this? On what legal basis? Why can’t I watch that Benfica-Porto Portuguese Cup match I’ve been waiting on? Don’t worry, I am here to attempt to answer these, and many other questions for you.
I guess the easiest place to start is something that most people in my age group are familiar with: Napster. In 1999 Napster opened one of the first, and easily the most well known file-sharing service on the internet. Instead of purchasing CDs, and before the coming of iTunes, we were able to download almost any song ever put on disc or in a file format. It was, in short, amazing. No longer spending all my time and money going to the store and purchasing a CD, I could now just download it. Sure at the beginning I still had dial-up and it once took me 7 hours to download a Dave Matthews Band song, but STILL! Anyway, our Camelot could only last so long. The music companies started a political, promotional, and legal campaign against Napster.
Eventually this led to a court case wherein numerous record companies sued Napster in federal court for violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They alleged that Napster was directly infringing on the plaintiffs’ copyrights and that they were liable for vicarious and contributory infringement. For a quick and dirty take on the case, here is Wikipedia’s entry. Basically, Napster had knowledge it was infringing upon the rights of these companies and it was tacitly allowing users to upload copyrighted materials onto the site, and therefore it was in violation of the DMCA. The case was appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court agreed with the District Court and Napster let it die.
I trust that you, our intelligent readers can see where this is going. The mixed martial arts companies, like UFC, complained that that stream site users were skirting their pay-per-view programs and using the streams. Likewise, the Super Bowl is this weekend in America, so I am sure you have figured this out by now. The complaints have been mounting for a while against these sites in the states. They are predominately used in the U.S. to view out of market games for the major sports and obviously for those of us who attempt to follow European football, especially from the so-called lesser leagues like Ligue 1 or the Eredivisie. But since those leagues have few overall viewers here and less pull than almost anything, they are not likely to be major players in the court story, if there is one.
What’s the next step? Well, there are other ways to find these streaming sites, though I cannot give you their exact location, but they are easy enough to find. However, this will end in a thorough investigation by the Justice Department and likely to a court case or a settlement, either way, it’s likely the end of these sites as we know them or until another better way is found to circumvent the law. In terms of football fans in the U.S., you’re screwed. Unless your game is on GolTV, FSC, ESPN, ESPN2, or one of the Spanish language channels, it’s not happening. There are very few legal defenses to this stuff and even if they found a favorable District Court judge, a Circuit Court of Appeal would overturn that, and the Supreme Court would laugh off any challenge that goes that far up.
Look, this is not a post about my opinion of the laws, you can elicit that elsewhere should you choose. It’s just presenting you with the reality of the situation and the basics behind it. Take from it what you will and complain how you might, but this is the truth.