Stealing American Jobs Online? Law Enforcement Warns To Come Up With New Business Model

Last week law enforcement officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) made a groundbreaking arrest in the fight against rogue websites.  The defendant is alleged to have illegally streamed live, copyrighted sports broadcasts via  a website– The Government believes that his rogue website served as an online gateway to pirated telecasts of sporting events of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  In early February, and 10 other rogue websites responsible for streaming live sporting events were seized  by federal authorities as part of the ongoing Operation in Our Sites initiative.  But unlike many rogue sites, the authorities believe they were able to identify and eventually catch the perpetrator.

The law enforcement investigation into the operations of the website revealed that the owner of the website made more than $90,000 in profits from online merchants who paid to advertise on the website. Even since its seizure by ICE on February 1, 2011, there have been 1.3 million visits to the site looking for illegal content. We know that rogue websites generate over 53 billion hits annually–this overwhelming amount of traffic to this one website sheds light on how much traffic these websites receive. Most importantly, the operator of the site was reaping profits on the backs of hard working Americans that make sporting events possible. We aren’t just talking about the players on the field, but the crews, producers, and people behind the scenes that make these events possible.

What’s more disconcerting is that websites like channelsurfing have been going operating for years. The domain name was registered in 2005 and operated until the time of its seizure. And despite the arrest of the suspect, the channelsurfing website is still accessible on a new .eu domain.

As this example shows, we need a remedy against rogue sites that relocate outside the United States to try to evade the jurisdiction of ICE and our other law enforcement agencies.  Legislation is needed to provide enhanced legal tools to cut off these websites regardless of where they are. Surely we can all agree that these websites have no place in a legitimate online market.  Congress should act to protect American jobs, creativity, and consumers.

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