Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Illegal Sports Websites Shut Down by Feds Ahead of Super Sunday

Those who lack in cable -- or proper geographical region -- often turn to websites that stream sporting events online. But federal prosecutors in New York have put the kibosh on that activity just days before this year's Super Bowl.

Officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have seized 16 illegal sports websites, also arresting a man who runs 9 of them. That man, Yonjo Quiroa, has been charged with criminal infringement of copyright -- a crime that carries a 5 year prison term.

It may seem odd to arrest someone for streaming sporting events that are aired on network television. Anyone with an antenna and television can watch them for free.

But live recordings of sporting events are subject to copyright, and are owned by sports leagues and the networks that air the original coverage. Illegal sports websites are violating the law and arguably deprive copyright owners of revenue.

This year, illegal sports websites will be costing the National Football League even more. For the first time, it plans to stream the Super Bowl game live online, reports the Wall Street Journal. That could bring in a lot of ad revenue.

The same logic applies to those who want to charge fans to watch sporting games at an in-person event. Much like illegal sports websites, you would be exploiting the NFL's copyright if you charged people to watch the Super Bowl at your house. Or if you watch the game on a screen larger than 55 inches.

So this year, ask your friends to bring lots of beer instead. And think about ditching the oversized TV.

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