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Senate Intellectual Property Panel Looking at Illegal Sports Streaming

Lawmakers in the nation’s capital are taking a closer look at illegal sports streaming and the impact that pirated versions of games could have on the intellectual property rights of professional sports leagues, live event producers and television companies. The response may eventually include increasing criminal penalties.

“Strong IP rights are vital to making these events possible,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said during a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “One of the reasons that illegal streaming has exploded in recent years is that the federal criminal law has not kept pace with the growth of illegal streaming technology.”

Tillis is the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. The panel recently held a hearing to explore ways to crack down on illegal sports streaming. It heard from representatives from the National Basketball Association, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Specialized Bicycles and the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.

“We’re interested in your thoughts on how Congress can catch up, including increased criminal penalties and stepped up Department of Justice enforcement,” Tillis said.

Illegal streaming raises a number of concerns, including that companies that invest in putting on live sporting events don’t get the full revenue associated with the event. That can have a significant trickledown effect on athletes, advertisers, broadcasters and employees, witnesses told the panel.

“Piracy at this scale not only undermines UFC’s copyright protections but also deprives our athletes and employees of additional revenue from these events,” Riche McKnight, a senior vice president for UFC parent company Endeavor, told the subcommittee. “Every viewer who chooses to use an illegal online streaming service instead of the authorized Pay-Per-View reduces the income of our athletes.”

Criminal Protections, Quick Take Downs Urged

McKnight and others urged lawmakers to make illegal streaming a felony criminal offense, especially for the operators of large scale streaming services. They also said the feds need to enhance their ability to quickly block illegal streaming services while sporting events are happening.

“One of the most significant obstacles to effective enforcement against illegal streams of NBA games is achieving such ‘expeditious’ removal of an unauthorized stream by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) hosting the streaming service,” Michael Potenza, a vice president for NBA Properties, Inc. said during the hearing.

“The need for an ISP to respond in near real time to a takedown notice for a live sports broadcast is critical for effective enforcement,” Potenza added. “For example, delaying removal of an illegal stream for even a few minutes could render enforcement meaningless for a Pay-Per-View boxing event that ends with a knock-out in the first round.”

How an Intellectual Property Lawyer Can Help

If you or your business has been victimized by intellectual property theft, you have the right to seek compensation from those responsible and to block them from doing it again. It is vital that you seek the assistance of an experienced intellectual property lawyer.

At Glancy Prongay & Murray, our attorneys combine decades of experience to get companies the compensation they deserve and hold intellectual property thieves fully accountable. We are pleased to offer a number of fee arrangements to share the financial risk with our clients. Call us at (310) 201-9150 or contact us online to speak with an intellectual property lawyer today.