U.S. Seizes Sports Streaming Sites in “Super Bowl Crackdown”

During the past 24 hours the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have seized several domains belonging to major sports streaming sites. While the authorities have not yet officially commented on the actions, there is little doubt that we're dealing with a "Super Bowl Crackdown". Whether the actions will have much effect has to be doubted, as the affected sites are continuing on other domains.

US authorities started their third round of domain name seizures yesterday, and the common theme appears to be sports streaming. The most recent seizures go even further than the previous ones as the only connection these sites have to the US is that their domains are operated by American companies.

Thus far, neither the Department of Justice nor Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit have officially commented on the seizures, but it can’t be a coincidence that sports streaming sites were targeted a few days before the Super Bowl is due to be aired.

The Super Bowl is the most-watched American television broadcast and huge commercial interests are likely to be the main reason why the domains were seized. In November, the previous round of seizures was timed a few days before another commercial event, “Cyber Monday”. These seizures targeted mainly online retailers of counterfeit goods, in an operation that was labelled the “Cyber Monday Crackdown” by the responsible authorities.

Thus far, TorrentFreak has confirmed the seizure of the following major sports streaming sites (no new ones will be added in this round):

* HQ-streams.com
* HQ-streams.net
* Atdhe.net
* Rojadirecta.com
* Rojadirecta.org
* Firstrow.net
* Ilemi.com
* Iilemi.com
* Iilemii.com
* Channelsurfing.net

In the aftermath of the seizures TorrentFreak has been in contact with the owners of several of the above sites, and despite the temporary setback they are all determined to continue.

The owner of Rojadirecta, whose site had been declared legal in Spain by two courts, is currently seeking legal counsel and the Channelsurfing owner has similar plans. Operators of competing sites are grouping together to determine what actions to take next to counter the seizures both legally and technically.

The notice below is posted on the seized sites

Seized Servers

The easiest option for the sites to continue their operations is to move to alternative domains, which most have done already. Since the servers have not been touched physically it’s a matter of changing a few settings to make the sites available to the public again. Rojadirecta is currently available on several alternative domains, including Rojadirecta.es. Channelsurfing.net is now available under Channelsurf.eu, Atdhe.net has moved to Atdhenet.tv and Ilemi.com transferred over to Ilemi.tv.

The streaming sites that were targeted in this “Super Bowl Crackdown” are not new to complaints from copyright holders.

Last year HQ-streams.com was hit with a court order which restrained it from broadcasting UFC events, an order with which the site complied. Rojadirecta on its turn has been sued by copyright holders in Spain, but after a three year legal battle the court decided that the site operated legally.

With the recent domain seizures, however, the US authorities have a much more powerful tool in hand to take action against sites they deem to be illegal. Without contacting the site owners – who are mostly foreign and host their sites outside of the US – they simply obtain a seizure warrant from a District Court judge and use this to take control over the domains in question. This questionable process grants the US censorship powers over a great part of the Internet, which it is using to protect the commercial interests of media and sports outfits.

Based on the domains that are targeted in the most recent seizures, it is apparent that the authorities will soon announce and comment on the “Super Sunday Seizures” or the “Super Bowl Crackdown.” Once this happens, or when any new domains are added to the list above, we will update this article accordingly.

Update: No new sports sites will be seized in this round.

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