Texas Court Orders Temporary ‘Pre-Piracy’ Shutdown of Sports Streaming Sites

A Federal Court in Texas has issued a broad preliminary injunction ordering several Internet services to disconnect a list of pirate sports streaming domains. While domain name seizures are not an entirely new phenomenon in the US, this order targets "anticipated" infringements and only applies temporarily. It ends after the Indian Premier League cricket tournament.

Copyright holders often complain that they have virtually no means to target pirate sites, especially those run from overseas.

Interestingly, however, in recent months it has become apparent that the US Federal Court system can be used as a prime enforcement tool to shut down pirate domain names.

This is also the path Indian media outfit Times Content Limited (TCL) decided to go down. The company operates the cricket channel Willow TV and owns the US broadcasting rights to the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, which is currently ongoing.

Two weeks ago the company sued several sports streaming sites including smartcric.com and crickethdlive.com. These sites allow users to watch cricket games for free over the Internet, without permission.

To stop this from taking place, the Indian company requested a broad injunction, which the court granted last week.

The preliminary injunction (pdf) orders various third party providers to stop working with these sites effective immediately to prevent future copyright infringements. This also applies to any new domain names or websites the operators may launch.

“…all service providers whose services will enable or facilitate Defendants’ anticipated infringement are ordered to suspend all services with respect to smartcric.com, smartcric.eu, crickethdlive.com, and crickethdlive.pw, or any other website or domain that is redirected from the Websites and continues to distribute and publicly perform the 2017 IPL,” it reads.

Domain registries and registrars are not the only parties that are compelled to comply. It also lists a broad range of intermediaries including hosting companies, CDN services, advertising outfits, and streaming providers.

Where this order clearly differs from similar injunctions in the US is that it specifically targets “anticipated infringement.” Or put differently, it aims to prevent piracy before it takes place.

From the injunction

What stands out further is that the injunction is temporary in nature. It only applies while the Cricket tournament is active. This ends on May 22, after which the parties involved are free to lift or reverse the actions they took.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Court’s intent is to ensure that Defendants’ Websites be rendered offline, inaccessible and incapable of receiving or displaying audio or video signals between the date of this order and 6:00 am. CDT on May 22, 2017,” the injunction reads.

Over the past few days several of the seized domain names have been placed in a Godaddy holding account belonging to the law firm that represents TCL. And per court order, they will stay there until said date.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the case is over after the tournament ends. In the complaint, TCL also requests damages and other punitive measures, which is something that has to be decided over at a later date.

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of the streaming sites in question, who says that the lawsuit took him by surprise. After losing his initial domain names he registered several new ones, but these were swiftly taken down as well.

“I moved Smartcric.com to Smartcric.be and Crickethdlive.com to Crickethdlive.pw. However, both domains were suspended as well within a day. Later, I moved Crickethdlive content to Crickethdlive.to however that was suspended yesterday as well,” the operator says.

“It was shocking to see that non-US registries were following the order issued by a US court. It was unfair and unjust to comply with orders of a non-competent court by these registries.”

Interestingly, one of the domain names was registered through the domain name service Njalla, which Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde recently launched. Sunde stresses that the domain was seized beyond their control and that no personal information was shared.

“We’re looking into the case at the moment, but the court took the domain and sent it to a legal firm. We have no way of going above the court and ICANN on this. However, we have of course not sent any information about the customer to anyone,” Sunde says.

The streaming site operator still doubts that he will get his domain names back after the injunction expires. Instead, he’s decided to focus his effort on finding a domain name that falls outside of the scope of the US courts.

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