February this year, U.S. authorities seized several domains belonging to major sports streaming sites. The seizures were timed just a few days before the Super Bowl, and came as a shock to their respective owners.
One of the affected sites was Channelsurfing.net, a website where links to external sports streams were listed. The site itself did not offer any streams, it merely linked to streams that were offered by third-party sites.
Nevertheless, ICE and HSI classified the site as a criminal operation and arrested the alleged owner, 32-year old Brian McCarthy from Texas.
The complaint revealed that McCarthy was tracked down through information provided by the domain registrar NameCheap, Gmail, Paypal, Comcast, and the site’s advertisers. The documents also show that he made at least $90,000 from advertisements during the last five years.
Following the arrest the court proceedings were shielded from the public, but after months of sealed filings McCarthy has now been indicted. The ChannelSurfing operator is charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and criminal copyright infringement for his involvement with the site.
McCarthy “did willfully infringe a copyright for purposes of financial gain,” the indictment reads, which further lists one specific infringement.
“On or about December 15, 2010, the defendant provided a link on the Channelsurfing.net website to a live stream of a basketball game that was protected by a copyright held by the National Basketball Association,” it further reads.
In response to the indictment, McCarthy sent a declaration to the New York federal court where he pleads not guilty to the two charges laid out in the indictment.
The ChannelSurfing owner never saw much harm in what he did, and assumed that “linking” to content hosted elsewhere wasn’t much of a problem.
“The thing about my site is we never streamed anything, we always linked from other sites like justin.tv, veetle, vshare.tv, zonein.tv and others,” TorrentFreak was told shortly after the ChannelSurfing domain was seized by the authorities.
In his declaration McCarthy further states that he is physically unable to travel to New York to visit the court, and that he waives his rights to appear in person.
“Mr. McCarthy lives in Texas and suffers from a whole host of emotional and psychological problems for which he is currently receiving medication and is in therapy. To the extent that can be avoided, Mr. McCarthy would like to keep his anxiety attacks (which manifest themselves in dry heaving and heart palpitation) to a minimum,” McCarthy’s attorney explains.
Attorney Sabrina Shroff further notes that she is still in negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s office to resolve the case with a misdemeanor plea.
District Court Judge Thomas Poole Griesa, however, has already scheduled a pre-trial hearing for early 2012. If found guilty to the criminal charges, McCarthy faces a maximum prison sentence of five years on each count.