On Friday evening millions of Australians were tuning into to the long awaited rematch between the Australian boxers Anthony Mundine and Danny Green.
Those who wanted to watch it live couldn’t do so cheaply, as it was streamed exclusively by the pay TV provider Foxtel for AUS$59.95.
However, the Internet wouldn’t be the Internet if people didn’t try to find ways around this expensive ‘roadblock.’ And indeed, as soon as the broadcast started tens of thousands of people tuned into unauthorized live streams, including several homebrew re-broadcasts through Facebook.
While it’s not uncommon for unauthorized sports streams to appear on social media, the boxing match triggered a true piracy fest. At one point more than 150,000 fans streamed a feed that was shown from the account of Facebook user Darren Sharpe, who gained instant fame.
Unfortunately for him, this didn’t go unnoticed to the rightsholders. Foxtel was quick to track down Mr. Sharpe and rang him up during the match, a call the Facebook streamer recorded and later shared on YouTube.
“Sorry mate, I just had to chuck that on mute. So you want me to turn off my Foxtel because I can’t stream it?” Darren asked the Foxtel representative.
“No. I want you to stop streaming it on Facebook. Just keep watching the fight at home, there’s no dramas with that. Just don’t stream it on Facebook,” the Foxtel rep replied.
“Mate, I’ve got 78,000 viewers here that aren’t going to be happy with you. I just don’t see why it’s [not] legal. I’m not doing anything wrong, mate. What can you do to me?” Darren said in response.
“It’s a criminal offence against the copyright act, mate. We’ve got technical protection methods inside the box so exactly this thing can’t happen,” the representative replied.
Mr. Sharpe didn’t seem to be very impressed by the allegations, but Foxtel soon showed how serious it was. Since Facebook didn’t turn off the infringing streams right away, the pay TV provider decided to display the customer’s account numbers on the video streams, so they could disable the associated feeds.
According to Foxtel CEO Peter Tonagh, the streamers in question will soon face legal action. This means that the “free” streaming bonanza could turn out to be quite expensive after all.
ABC reports that Brett Hevers, another Facebook user whose unauthorized broadcast reached more than 150,000 people at its peak, believes he has done nothing wrong.
“I streamed the Mundine and Green fight mainly just so a few mates could watch it. A few people couldn’t afford the fee or didn’t have Foxtel so I just thought I’d put it up for them,” Hevers said.
“All of a sudden 153,000 people I think at the peak were watching it,” he adds.
Anticipating significant legal bills, fellow Facebook streamer Darren Sharpe has already decided to start a GoFundMe campaign to cover the cost. At the time of writing, the campaign has already reached over a quarter of the $10,000 goal.