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Feds pull plug on pirated sports content

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Bob Moon: Just ahead of the Super Bowl this weekend, the feds are cracking down on online piracy in sporting events. This week, Homeland Security agents seized the domain names of 10 websites that they say were hosting or even just linking to hundreds of pirated streaming sporting events.

Marketplace’s Steve Henn has more.

Steve Henn: If you log on to today, instead of seeing a list of links to live streaming sporting events, you’ll see a big banner from the Department of Homeland Security saying “Seized.”

Anastasia Danias is the vice president of legal affairs at the NFL. I reached her on her cell phone in Dallas.

Anastasia Danias: Piracy is a growing problem. It’s something that has really been developing over the past few years.

Danias says the NFL helped the feds figure out which websites to target in this week’s raids.

James Hayes was Homeland Security’s special agent in charge of the investigation. He says that even though some of these sites were just linking to pirated events, they were still hurting the economy.

James Hayes: For instance, the Ultimate Fighting Championship that charges $44.95 for an event, and you have a million people watching that event that are not paying for that because the content has been pirated, that’s lost tax revenue and it’s lost jobs.

This is the third time in less than a year the feds have seized domain names of websites they suspect of profiting off of online piracy.

Rebecca Jeschke: There are some due process concerns with these seizure. The websites don’t get any notice.

Rebecca Jeschke is at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She says some of the sites that have been seized were legitimate businesses that didn’t have a chance to respond to allegations that they were violating copyrights. Others were search engines offering links.

So Jeschke wonders if you can lose your website to the feds simply by linking to pirated content — could the feds seize Google?

In Los Angeles, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

Moon: And we’ve got more on this story on Marketplace Tech Report.

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