Feds Tackle Sports-Streaming Pirate Sites

The U.S. government seized 10 domains connected to broadcasting professional sports Wednesday as part of a widespread crackdown on internet piracy.

The court-ordered seizures, as part of the government’s Operation in Our Sites, are aimed at web sites that sell counterfeited goods, as well as sites that facilitate illegal music, film and broadcast piracy. The move comes days before one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Super Bowl this Sunday.

“The illegal streaming of professional sporting events over the internet deals a financial body blow to the leagues and broadcasters who are forced to pass their losses off to fans by raising prices for tickets and pay-per-view events,” Preet Bharara, Manhattan U.S. attorney, said in a statement. (The U.S. attorney failed to mention multi-million-dollar athlete contracts.)

The seized sites are: atdhe.net, channelsurfing.net, hq-streams.net, hq-streams.com, firstrow.net, ilemi.com, iilemi.com, iilemii.com, rojadirecta.org and rojadirecta.com.

The domains often are not given notice of the seizure, but they may challenge it in federal court. The U.S. government has jurisdiction over so-called top-level domains, like .com, .org and .net. Many of the shuttered sites display a graphic with images from the Justice Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.

At least one of the domains is already up and running again under a new name: athe.me, which is out of the United States’ reach. ”Our domain ATDHE.NET has been seized today (01/02/11). We are now using www.ATDHE.me but don’t be alarmed, we will do our best to bring you back everything. Please use the links below to stream your live sports for now,” the site told sports enthusiasts Wednesday.

In November, the federal government targeted about 80 web sites, many that bartered in counterfeited goods like scarves and golfing gear. In June, when the seizure program was announced, the government took down seven sites that distributed pirated motion pictures.

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