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Congressional Hearing On Live Sports Piracy...


Fergasun

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On December 16, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on live sports piracy. Most likely I'm going to stream-capture this from C-SPAN (for some reason not all committee hearings are available from Congressional webpages).

Witnesses were: senior VP of MLB, CEO of UFC, CEO of Justin.tv, executive VP of ESPN, and Professor of Law at UPENN.

I think this may be of some interest to those around here. I'm going to parse out some of their testimony and post them into this thread... and at some point I'll be creating an MP3 of the hearing.

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First up, Michael Mellis, Senior VP and General Counsel, MLB Advanced Media

This poses a threat to the global televised media sector. Although there is much that remains unknown about this problem, particularly with respect to its offshore aspects, it is clear that on an annual basis, tens of thousands of hours of live television programming from networks around the world are being pirated. Included is significant piracy of live sports telecasts and related programming of the world’s premier sports organizations. For example, earlier this year, MLB, NBA, NCAA, NFL and NHL informed the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) that a hub of online television piracy called “TVAnts,” based in China, was pirating nearly every one of their live event telecasts and profiting from it by selling advertising on the TVAnts media player.
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Our copyright law is clear: the piracy is copyright infringement. However, domestic copyright litigation is a remedial tool available only in limited circumstances. This is because the piracy is a global phenomenon, often involving sites and services that operate entirely offshore, outside the effective reach of our courts. Pirates take advantage of the borderless Internet and readily available technologies to distribute streams worldwide. To illustrate this point: approximately 75% of the pirated retransmissions of our game telecasts have occurred through sites and services located offshore, and approximately 50% through sites and services located in China.
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Lorenzo J. Fertitta, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Zuffa, LLC / Ultimate Fighting Championship®

The piracy of live sporting events is illegal; it kills jobs, and threatens the expansion of U.S.-based companies.
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The UFC® is potentially losing tens of millions of dollars in revenues because our content is streamed through these websites. Here is how it works: with a simple adapter that can be purchased at any Radio Shack or Best Buy (that I am holding here), someone with access to one of our live events reproduces the program and retransmits it on the Internet with the aid of these new websites, such as the one represented on this panel today. The website that allows this retransmission then allows any user that can access the site to view the programming without authorization or payment. These unauthorized viewers watch the event live, in the same quality and with the same ease as those who lawfully purchased the content through pay-per-view.
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Just last month, the broadcast of UFC® 106 from the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, had over 271 unauthorized streams with over 140,000 views, and those are only the ones that our anti-piracy team and consultants identified. There were likely more streams that we simply couldn’t find.
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Based on our observation, many of these new websites are making fortunes by aiding in the theft of our content and making it available through their website. Rather than building businesses that respect intellectual property rights, many of these streaming sites, some of which reside outside the United States, are building their business models by exploiting the infringing potential of the streaming technology.
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If the NFL wants to decrease the impact of piracy, they should stream their games online just like MLB NBA and NHL. The piracy won't go away but they'd make more money...and less people would have to go "underground" in order to watch NFL games online.

Still odd how NFL is the only league so backwards and out of date that they won't stream any games live online, and when they do it's a very poor attempt. The pirates just stream the game, no live-look in crap, no bull****.

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Full disclosure, I've never watched streams but have a large collection of games on DVD. I consider this akin to legal VHS tape trading that has gone on for years. I haven't downloaded much for the past 2 years since my interests have diverged (such as interest in topics like this).

I always thought the NFL should release season box sets of their games, but have no realized that will never happen. The NFL and other sports leagues are built around the hype of their current season, and current players... while they will reference the greats;they want everyone to think this season and these players are the best who have ever played.

My business plan at one time was to amass a large collection of videos and pass them down to 2 generations... and then my great-great-grandchildren can make a fortune out of a "Classic Sports" TV station when it all became public-domain.

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If the NFL wants to decrease the impact of piracy, they should stream their games online just like MLB NBA and NHL. The piracy won't go away but they'd make more money...and less people would have to go "underground" in order to watch NFL games online.

Still odd how NFL is the only league so backwards and out of date that they won't stream any games live online, and when they do it's a very poor attempt. The pirates just stream the game, no live-look in crap, no bull****.

Normally, in these debates, I'm one of the "piracy is stealing, and you're all thieves" crowd. But I do think there's somewhat of a point, here.

IMO, the vast majority of people who are streaming sports are doing so because they can't get it any other way.*

As someone who's paid the NFL for access to stream the radio feeds for the last 4-5 years, (and who doesn't pirate the video, because the quality is so bad that I dislike it), I'm very confident that if NFL.com gave me access to streaming video for, say, $100-200 a year, I'd be cheerfully paying it.

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* The fly in my assertion, though, is Direct TV and Sunday Ticket. With Sunday Ticket, how many people are there, out there, who really can't get the NFL?

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I mean there are some people who will pirate feeds but the point is the feeds from the NHL, NBA , and MLB online video packages are usually a lot better than the pirate feeds. Therefore there should be little complaints from the major companies, they have what is clearly a superior product which has more features (at least 2 of the 3 advertise DVR capability)

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