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Online Pirates In The Crosshairs

3/16/2011 3:19 PM

Back in the 1990s, pirating a Mike Tyson pay-per-view boxing match meant getting an illegal converter box that would clear up all scrambled addressable box signals.

Today, watching PPV events and out-of-market pro sports games is as easy as clicking a mouse button. Last month U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations shut down 10 websites that that illegally streamed live sports telecasts and pay-per-view events over the Internet.

The websites, which include such domains as ATDHE.Net and, provided access to pirated telecasts of PPV events from HBO, UFC and WWE as well as live games from the NFL, NBA and NHL — by linking their sites to illegal, third party feeds that show the events.

The government took its fight against piracy a step future two weeks ago by arresting Bryan McCarthy, the owner of the Texas-based service, and charging him with one count of copyright infringement.

A decade ago, most people pirating a boxing match were looking to avoid paying the $30 to $50 PPV ordering fee. Today, offering pirated content digitally can apparently generate some significant incremental revenue. McCarthy allegedly made more than $90,000 in profits from online merchants who paid him to advertise on the website, according to ICE.

That’s because these sites generate significant traffic. ICE reported that received more than it has received more than 1.3 million hits a month after the site was seized and no more content was available.

While event providers cheered the shutdown of the 10 sites, they caution that this is really only round one in the fight against piracy.

Even the latest developments aren’t a slam dunk: Political action organization Demand Progress recently set up a petition on its website urging ICE to drop the charges against McCarthy, stating that “there’s nothing wrong or illegal about posting a link to a website.”

But it seems like the industry – with an assist from Uncle Sam – is up for the fight.