When Lionel Messi held up the World Cup Trophy, all of Argentina was watching. Many people tuned in to legal broadcasts but pirate services were buzzing too.
With an audience of millions, piracy is quite popular in Argentina. Rightsholders are unhappy with the country’s mediocre enforcement results in the piracy arena and are demanding tougher action.
Thus far, private actions have already enjoyed a level of success. A few days before the start of the World Cup, ACE took down a ring of illegal sports streaming sites including futbollibre.net and televisionlibre.net. The sites had millions of monthly visitors and were operated from Argentina.
While these domain names were effectively pulled offline, the piracy problem persists. After the shutdowns, new domain names appeared, helping to fuel the perpetual game of cat-and-mouse between rightsholders and pirates.
Premier League Flags Argentina
A few days ago, the Premier League stepped in to make a statement. True to the global nature of the issue, England’s top football league reported Argentina to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) as a prime candidate for its upcoming piracy watchlist.
The football organization is headquartered in the UK and broadcasts in the United States through international partners. The league also operates an educational program in hundreds of U.S. elementary schools, teaching roughly 75,000 kids about online safety and other issues.
The USTR submission doesn’t deal with these educational goals. Instead, it focuses on copyright enforcement hurdles, including those related to Argentina.
‘Criminal Enforcement Deception’
The Premier League’s submission references a specific case where a criminal referral to the authorities failed to produce the desired results. The matter dates back to 2018, when the football organization reported a number of high-profile sports streaming platforms to the authorities.
“At the time the case was filed the streaming platforms operated by the suspects were the largest source of free-to-access infringing live streams of Matches in the world,” the submission reads.
After the initial report was filed, progress was slow. The case was passed between multiple courts and, much to the frustration of the Premier League, the unnamed defendants were informed about the ongoing investigation, which provided an opportunity to destroy evidence.
The Premier League nonetheless continued to put effort into the case. It appealed jurisdictional challenges, identified new domain names, and introduced evidence to show that a U.S. court had previously found that the suspects operated sports-related piracy sites. Ultimately, that didn’t help.
“Despite these efforts, the suspects were recently acquitted,” the Premier League writes.
The websites in question are not mentioned, and the related U.S. lawsuit is a mystery too. What we do know is that, at the time the case was first filed, Rojadirecta.me, Livetv.sx and Sport365.Live were among the top sports streaming sites.
‘Argentina Should Up Its Game’
The case is just a single example, but the submission suggests that enforcement problems are common in Argentina. Through the U.S. Government, the football league now hopes to increase the pressure on Argentina by urging the country to take the matter seriously.
“It is vital that an effective IP enforcement framework enables legitimate rights owners to bring and conclude deterrent enforcement actions in a timely manner and before pirate technology has evolved, and that courts are willing to give due consideration to evidence and expertise offered by copyright owners.
“Unfortunately, in the Premier League’s experience, which we have been advised by local legal counsel is by no means unique, the current framework in Argentina does not offer the support rights owners require to protect their IP rights.”
The Premier League’s proposal suggests placing Argentina on the Priority Watch List of the USTR’s forthcoming 2023 Special 301 Report. This would be in line with previous years, where the USTR already highlighted several Argentinian copyright enforcement problems.
A copy of the full report is available here (pdf). In addition to Argentina, the Premier League submission also highlights shortcomings in other countries, including China, Iraq, Thailand, and Vietnam.