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Feds seize 10 linking sites accused of illegal sports streaming

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last week executed seizure warrants on 10 websites engaged in illegal streaming of copyrighted sports events, including the events of the NFL, WWE and the NBA, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said.

The websites are accused of streaming live sports telecasts and pay-per-view events. The sites include atdhe.net, channelsufing.net, hq-streams.com, hqstreams.net, firstrow.net, ilemi.com, iilemi.com, iilemii.com, rojadirecta.org and rojadirecta.com. They are among the most popular Internet sites for illegal distribution of copyrighted sports.

"The illegal streaming of professional sporting events over the Internet deals a financial body blow to the leagues and broadcasters who are forced to pass their losses off to fans by raising prices for tickets and pay-per-view events,” Bharara said in a press statement.

The websites seized Feb. 1 were linking sites that give visitors access to links on other websites where pirated live and pay-per-view sporting events are hosted.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is asking for forfeiture of the domain names for these websites. Visitors to the websites are redirected to a banner telling them the domain name has been seized by a court order in connection with criminal copyright violations.

According to the seizure warrant application unsealed Feb. 2 in Manhattan federal court, broadcasters and sports leagues are losing millions of dollars in revenue from the illegal distribution of their copyrighted content via the Internet. Sports fans also are impacted by the piracy in the form of higher ticket prices as leagues seek to cover the cost of addressing online piracy, it said.

The case is being handled by the office’s complex frauds unit.