In early February 2011, U.S. authorities began the third round of Operation in Our Sites, the process which takes allegedly copyright-infringing sites offline by taking possession of their domain names.
This wave of seizures, which took place with the Super Bowl just around the corner, netted 10 domains including Atdhe.net, ChannelSurfing.net, HQ-Streams.com, HQ-Streams.net, Firstrow.net, Ilemi.com, Ilemi.net, Iilemi.com, RojaDirecta.org and RojaDirecta.org.
Now the individual behind two of the domains, HQ-Streams.com and HQ-Streams.net, has not only lost his domains but now potentially faces losing his freedom.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have confirmed their agents arrested a New York man this week on suspicion of illegally streaming copyrighted sports events over the Internet.
Mohamed Ali, 19, of Hollis, N.Y., was taken into custody at his home in Queens and charged with a single count of criminal copyright infringement.
“Today’s arrest sends a clear message to website operators who mistakenly believe it’s worth the risk to take copyrighted programming and portray it as their own,” said ICE Director John Morton.
“Protecting legitimate business interests are a priority for HSI, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and our law enforcement partners. We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when organized criminals traffic in stolen content for their own profit.”
According to the criminal complaint, between February 2010 to January 2011 Ali used his domains to show events from the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the Ultimate Fighting Championship and (UFC) and other boxing events.
ICE says that Ali charged $6, $12 and up to $25 to access links which would allow visitors to watch events. There appears to be no claim that Ali provided the streams himself.
At the time Ali’s domains were seized, ICE were very clear that they were targeting sites that were “among the most popular on the Internet for illegally distributing copyrighted sporting events”, but since then his domains have received just 50,000 hits, even though masses of news coverage will have boosted interest among Internet users. But clearly not all hits turn into business.
While ICE claim that Ali charged a fee to view streams, they say that in approximately a year he made just $6,000. A tap of the calculator reveals that at the $6 ‘cheap rate’ just 1,000 ‘tickets’ were sold, at $12 just 500 and at the top rate, around 240. If this is what constitutes one of the “most popular” sites, piracy is truly under control.
In August 2010, HQ-streams.com was hit with a direct court order from the UFC which restrained it from broadcasting their events, an order with which the site at least initially complied.
“Too (sic) All Members Of The Forum, There won’t be any UFC 118 stream here this Saturday,” said a notice posted on the site at the time. “We don’t want our site to get into troubles (sic) with Zuffa!”
Troubles with Zuffa, it seems, were the least of their worries.