Ahead of Super Bowl XLVI, US authorities seize 16 websites for alleged piracy of live sports video

New York – As Americans prepare to watch Sunday’s annual National Football League Super Bowl championship, US prosecutors announced today that they had seized 16 websites they said illegally offered streaming video of sporting events on the Internet and charged a Michigan man with operating nine of them, according to Reuters.

The news agency said government officials claimed the websites referred visitors to other websites that provided video pirated from leagues and franchises including the NFL, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and World Wrestling Entertainment.

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Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, was quoted by Reuters as saying in a statement: "These websites and their operators deprive sports leagues and networks of legitimate revenue." Bharara announced the seizures personally.

Reuters identified the sites as: firstrow.tv, firstrowsports.com, firstrowsports.net, firstrowsports.tv, hq-streams.tv, robplay.tv, soccertvlive.net, sports95.com, sports95.net, sports95.org, sportswwe.net, sportswwe.tv, sportswwe.com, xonesports.tv, youwwe.com and youwwe.net.

Attempts to access some of the websites returned a message from the federal government: “This domain name has been seized” under a court warrant by the New York office of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

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Even as prosecutors made the announcement, however, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady admitted to reporters that he himself has used an illegal website, according to Reuters.

"Last year, you know, I was rehabbing my foot, you know, in Costa Rica, watching the game on an illegal Super Bowl website," he was quoted as saying in video posted to the legitimate website of the NFL. "And now I'm actually playing in the game. So it's pretty cool."

According to Reuters, prosecutors allege that Yonjo Quiroa, a.k.a. Rolando Solano, 28, had operated the sites from Comstock Park, MI. He is charged with one count of criminal infringement of copyright.

In another Internet piracy-related development, defense lawyers in New Zealand announced today that they would seek bail for accused copyright pirate Kim Dotcom of Germany, who was denied bail as a flight risk last week. Police raided his “Dotcom Mansion” on Jan 20.

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