The Legality of ATDHE & Channel Surfing

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.

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  1. BA
    February 3, 2011

    Veetle is also an excellent resource. VIP’s channel (Veetle -> Channels -> Sports -> VIP) shows HQ Sky and GolTV feeds for most Barça games. also, atdhe and Rojadirecta are both already back up and running under different URLs. easy to find.

    essentially DHS is just wasting my tax dollars in a vain attempt to win Fox (the channel carrying the Super Bowl) some more ad revenue. Rojadirecta’s servers, as you noted, are based in Spain while atdhe’s are based in Belgium, i believe; so there’s no way they can be taken offline on a permanent basis without litigation in those countries, neither of whom are especially keen on enforcing P2P/stream/torrent “offenses”. therefore all DHS can do is play whack-a-mole with their URLs, which is hilariously easy to circumvent; both sites were back up under slightly different URLs within an hour of being taken down on Wednesday.

  2. Nav
    February 3, 2011

    I don’t think this will kill streaming sites any more than shutting down Napster got rid of the music download scene. At its worst, we will go without streaming sites for a while until new ones pop up all over the Internet.

    The US government can only force the US DNS hosts to purge their records, not overseas-based DNS hosts or ISPs. In laymen terms, this means that if the web site is outside of the USA (probably somewhere in Russia), there’s not much the ‘feds’ can do about it. Note that this does not apply to viewers — they can be from anywhere.

    Luke/crew of BFB: is it okay for us to post links here or would you rather we didn’t?

    • February 3, 2011

      Feel free. It may make it easier accessible to some people.

  3. barca96
    February 3, 2011

    As long as we can download full matches, I’m fine with it.

  4. ElShowDeJason
    February 3, 2011

    I think that GolTV, Fox, and others should step up their attempts to make their content more reachable outside of just the television.
    While ESPN could to more, I have a much easier time reaching it’s content if I am not in front of the TV. I can use ESPN3 online, or the ESPN XBOX app, where I can watch ESPN events live or on-demand

    As far as copyright infringement, well, I understand if they want to block me from watching something that I could pay for here, but if there is no way for me to watch it through my cable’s offerings, then whose broadcast rights am I infringing on? They weren’t going to get a dime off of me since it wasn’t offered in the first place.

  5. blitzen
    February 3, 2011

    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.

    LOL! Sorry, Luke, but I have to laugh at your antiquated notion that a judgement in a US court will somehow affect the entire internet. Sure, it might be difficult for a while and it will mean some sites will disappear, but others will immediately pop up. It’s like trying to flatten jello. The internet always finds a way. Unless maybe you live in North Korea or something.

    Oh, and I may be showing my age, but I like CDs. There is something about cover art and liner notes that is very satisfying.

    3M, peeps!

    • blitzen
      February 3, 2011

      Oh, and I should also mention that I have never paid for a music download in my life, but I still buy plenty of CDs. I’m an anomaly! 😀

      • February 3, 2011

        i’ve never paid for a music download ever, either. i’m tempted to download crap now, though. i’ve got a sizable vinyl collection from my punk rock days. i hear that you can find really rare crap now online for free & it’s a lot less of a hassle than converting everything in to mp3’s, one by one.

        • blitzen
          February 3, 2011

          OoooOOOhhhh! I don’t own any vinyl (no turntable), but at least 25% of my CD collection is local and other punk bands. You are in LA, right?

    • Luke
      February 3, 2011

      Ah Blitzen, yes, they do continue to pop up for sure, but as you can now see, even in the wake of Napster that all of the subsequent sites have been shut down, and now even the Pirate Bay is down.

      I was more or less making a broad statement about the future of the streaming sites and since this is an American site, I was talking about what we can access. Don’t confuse me with someone who thinks the courts solve everything or they are perfect, just saying that’s how the things are working in the long run.

      • February 3, 2011

        It’s also worth noting that the long arm of the law has time on its side. The absurd monetary damages that were sought from ordinary civilians for “illegal” downloads are an effective, and frightening deterrent. After a while, people just get tired of fighting. No reason to think that these sites will be any different.

        I don’t really have a view on whether they should be allowed to exist, though I do recognize the value of being able to see a Barca match, for someone who would otherwise have absolutely no means of every seeing, and thus becoming a fan of, our amazing club.

      • Jose
        February 3, 2011

        I have to admit, I literally laughed out loud when I read that line too, blitzen.

        They once told me that I couldn’t watch my TV shows online anymore, and shut down my preferred TV show streaming site. Less than a month later, two alternatives popped up: faster and much easier than the last one.

        Then they told me I couldn’t download movies anymore, by shutting down my favorite torrents site. Now, the Pirate Bay is back up from a different country and stronger than ever.

        Now they’ve told us that you won’t be allowed to stream live matches by taking down some of the most popular sports streaming sites. Within HOURS, replacements have popped up and we haven’t even missed a weekend of football. In a few months, there’ll be more people streaming sports through the internet than ever before.

  6. Lev
    February 3, 2011

    WTF?!? Homeland security has seized and I am not even in the U.S.!!! how is that possible? If the U.S. decides that something is illegal they can block a website worldwide???

    • Lev
      February 3, 2011

      mmm easy enough to find an alernative link though…I watch Barça on TV but it is the principle of the whole issue. Still, one country trying to impose its laws on another…That’s just nasty.

  7. February 3, 2011

    “‘We have not been notified,’ Rojadirecta’s Igor Seoane told TorrentFreak. As with the previous seizures the domain registrar was bypassed in the seizure. ‘According to Go Daddy they have not touched anything,’ Seoane said.
    The site is owned by a Spanish company that pays its taxes and has been declared to operate legally in Spain. In addition, the site is not hosted in the US either. The only connection to the US is that the .org domain is maintained by a US company.

    This indirect connection to the US makes the seizure a dubious action, according to Rojadirecta’s owner. ‘In our opinion the US authorities are completely despising the Spanish justice system and sovereignty,’ Seoane told TorrentFreak.”

  8. outerspacedout
    February 3, 2011

    I don’t get to see games with Ray Hudon, but some of the stuff in here made me laugh my head off. Sure you guys would have seen this by now but it’s too funny to not re-post.


    ““The immovable object meets the irresistible force.” – On…something.

    On Cristiano Ronaldo’s favorite move(s) – “Blades flashing like a combine harvester.”

    On Lionel Messi – “Like a squirrel on a telegraph wire.”

    Presumably he was dancing nimbly on a straight line, but this one still required Google as we here in the 21st century typically call it a “telephone wire” or “power lines”.

    On Lionel – “He could follow you into a revolving door and he’d still come out first.”

    If you’ve spent far too long considering the possibility of this…
    …welcome to the club. (Any suggestions?)

    On Xavi – “Cool as Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.”

    On Xavi – “Old chameleon eyes with that kaleidoscope vision.”

    Apparently “chameleon eyes” allow for 360 degree vision, which would explain why this term was used to describe Xavi so very often.
    Thanks to Ray and Google for this dollop of knowledge for today.

    On Sami – “Khedira, I couldn’t find him with a spotlight either.”

    On the first half skirmish – “Then Valdes comes out and spits the verbals like Mussolini at the balcony”

    On Pepe’s new nickname – “Pepe the Portuguese Peach”
    Facial hair reference, I think.

    On Lil Wayne – “David Villa absolutely makes Sergio Ramos his little lollipop”

    Intimate knowledge of the Spanish dressing room?
    Don’t answer that.

    On what was happening in Ray’s trousers during the third Barcelona goal – “this is a goal of orgiastic proportions”

    You’re always bound to walk into some TMI when Ray’s in the house.

    “Real Madrid’s defense stretched out like spandex on Miami beach” – On Real Madrid’s defense, obviously.

    You feel like this one was aimed at one of Ronaldo or Ramos.

    On Barca’s fourth – “The precise pass that opens up the white shirts like a fresh fish.”

    Today’s offerings were decidedly animal-centric. Maybe Ray’d just visited a zoo.

    On Villa – “He’s got fire in him. He’s like a Peregrine falcon, that guy.”
    A Google search on “peregrine falcon fire” comes up entirely blank.

    Ray Hudson, ladies and gentlemen.”

    Okay the one thing I want to ask though is, ‘the precise pass that opens up the white shirts like a fresh fish’? Huh? Are fresh fish somehow good at opening up shirts? Or did the pass open up the white-shirts like somebody cutting up a fresh fish cos fish are easy to cut open or something? Just, HUH?

    • outerspacedout
      February 3, 2011

      “CupOfTeaAtHalfTime 2 months ago

      Some from my own notepad:

      “it’s just a game?” Whatever stupid idiot said that had no idea what they were talking about

      the captain gets caught with his knickers down just a little bit

      real madrid’s defece stretched open like spandex on a miami beach, and the goal keeper is left naked …..

      it’s like playing poker with a witch,… you’re gonna loose

      he’s been as nasty as a rat bite

      the cerebral dictator….

      this is an electric atmosphere … there’s more spark than an electric hairdryer in a hot tub”


      “His co-commentator had another nugget during the game though:
      ‎”If it wasn’t raining, you could keep [Barcelona’s] possession time on a sun dial””

      I WANT YOU GUYS’ CHANNEL! The commentary on whatever channel is showing Liga football over here in Asia has comparatively dull commentary, I want more of this. I need to switch my internet to faster speed and connect it to my TV for big games or something.

      Vicsoc: When you’re making that compilation of downloaded Barca games for the whole Pep era, do try get the GolTV versions with Hudson commentary lol.

  9. February 3, 2011

    I have been working on this for a while. I moved to the California from the middle east less than 2 years ago. Back there, worrying about where to watch the game was a non issue. There was a bar, cafe or just random people with small TV’s on the streets watching the games. When i moved here, that all went away. There were weeks and months of looking for a way to watch my beloved sport.

    I discovered streams after that and personally, i hated it. No guarantee on a clear picture, lagging time and then sudden shutting down of stream. Despite all that, i was still very happy that i could watch some Futball! In the summer while visiting the family back home (Lebanon for whoever is concerned), i saw a commercial about Al Jazeera working on expanding to covering the US. The channel was making sure if it can get clearance from the government as it was illegal? to have Jazeera especially after 9/11.

    Al Jazeera sport covers La Liga, Serie A and champions league among many other things. I am giving them a call tomorrow to check up on how that expansion has gone and will definitely update whoever is interested. I remember reading it was 45 $ a year. To be honest im not sure if it was 45 or 75, but somewhere around that range. I will probably do a post on the offside about it and throw you guys a link. I’m saying this to comfort Luke that come April, he can see Madrid kick Barcas ass (dont you just love smack talk?).

    As for the legal validity of streaming sites, I have a different opinion. If home land security was doing this because they thought it was wrong, then I’m all for it. But this was done, like Luke noted, right before the super bowl as big channels that control that event want viewers tuned in to their channel. Big media station puts pressure on government, government has to protect the rights of those rich media stations and keep them happy so they do this. This doesn’t happen in the US of course, its kindoff the universal law. The media is probably as strong as a nuclear weapon these days.

    As many other people said, if they are based outside the US, they cant shut them down. They can though, block users within the US from accessing those sites. I doubt that would happen though.

    • outerspacedout
      February 3, 2011

      Where I live here now in Maldives and before in Malaysia, seeing Liga and CL games is never an issue but no channel we get shows Copa games. Does Jazeera Sport show Cup games? I know I have Al-Jazeera news for sure, though I hardly ever watch any news channels, but I gotta check if I have Jazeera Sport (don’t think I do though) and if I do have it and they do show Cup games, super awesome.

      I would have hated to miss out on the Cup final. I switched internet recently and streams are way too slow to see literally anything except a few seconds then long pause then another few seconds. Gotta swtich back to a faster network, or watch it with my aunt’s Barca-crazy husband who I’m sure has faster internet and a PS3 and those fancy media stuff or something, and link it up to the TV.

      • February 3, 2011

        They do cover the Copa. I know that it needs its own subscription (seperate of Al Jazeera) but best of luck. Here is a wiki link of the football and sporting events they cover:


  10. beeeef
    February 3, 2011

    Mourinho: “Many times, the favourite doesn’t win the final.”


    hahaha, man, i can’t wait for this team to sink Mourinho again. he’s such a great antagonist

  11. Sheena
    February 4, 2011

    Was there a Revista episode this week by any chance?
    If so, anyone with a download link? 🙂

  12. mei
    February 4, 2011

    Its worth noticing , that you are talking about quite different animals altogether on this one.

    Napster was a limewire-like tool that most of you will know ; a program that indexed and helped users connect with each other to share their music.

    Bitorrent applications are a completely legal tools for sharing data;its what you’re sharing that makes it legal or not(and thats after a court decision that has to be reached , after someone makes a notion for it , and still has to be valid legal violation in the “infringer’s” country).

    Torrent search engines in essence can’t be described as illegal.Or at least they shouldn’t.
    They are hosting hash files that contain info about files that are hosted somewhere else ,and are only linking towards the files.
    Linking towards “illegal” content doesn’t constitute a legal offense in most countries; its the act of trying to download/share it that can be described as such.
    And that’s exactly what rojadirecta is.
    A linking site. Thats why the verdict came clean for them in spain , and it will continue to do so.
    It could be said that in general terms, Google does a similar thing.

    Piracy will never back down just because some companies are moving via court against it ; what history has shown us till now is that these kind of cases are
    a)very few
    b)dropped after a while
    c)final verdict most times drops the case altogether.
    d)the companies and courts that get involved with these things don’t know enough about the subject to proceed.
    e)if any penalties are given , the actual money is not matching the effort and by the numbers of illegal content availability and sharing its not working as a deterrent.

    Why? Its the internet, its global and copyright laws are outdated/not clear enough for this kind of use anyway.
    Napster came first only to be followed by numerous other application , services and sites that essentially follow the same principle.
    I view it as a way of balancing things ; whenever there is global demand for something, or whenever the price doesn’t reflect the quality of a product, piracy will always kick in as a very tempting alternative. Its there, its easy , fast and the quality of the final product is satisfying.
    Unless all these industries(music,movies etc) find a way to offer a more reliable, worth the price and not appreciated through you computer screen/hi-fi system product, its doomed.
    Because the people offering the alternatives are smarter , there are lots of them ,have global support and got the expertise to remain untraceable anyway.

  13. jaymin
    February 4, 2011

    certainly a worthy use of DHS resources as The Al Anzar Brigade roams free in Iraq’s Iranian border, Al Qaida stalks about in the practically autonomous region in between India and its terrorist islamic 1948 neighboring country, and seething right wingers in the tea party circle- j**k openly fantasize about assassinating our president.
    Kids, don’t be a politician. Real people who matter will make you pose with their defecation on your face, cheque in hand. Or between your teeth.

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