WASHINGTON — Special agents with the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore field office seized 55 separate internet domains Dec. 10 for allegedly live streaming World Cup matches, an infringement of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) copyrights. Individuals visiting the sites saw a message that the site has been seized by the federal government and were redirected to another site for additional information. HSI Baltimore led the investigation into the illegal live streaming with significant assistance from the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).
“HSI Baltimore will continue to focus on removing websites that facilitate digital piracy, and other intellectual property violations, from the internet,” said James C. Harris III, special agent in charge of HSI Baltimore. “While many may believe that such websites do not constitute serious threats, the infringement upon rights holders of any intellectual property is a growing threat to our economic viability. The impact can be felt across multiple industries, and it can be the conduit to other forms of criminal activity.”
The investigation into the seizures began in September 2022, when HSI received information from a representative of FIFA identifying several sites being used to distribute copyright infringing content, specifically World Cup games, without FIFA’s authorization.
HSI Baltimore reviewed numerous examples of infringing content accessible from each of the subject domain names. Each domain was associated with a website offering free access to copyrighted digital media content – specifically, live streamed sessions of World Cup soccer games.
FIFA and its copyright policy
FIFA is the international governing body of association football and holds the exclusive rights to sanction and stage the FIFA World Cup 2022, which is being hosted in multiple cities in Qatar.
Free access to live sports related copyright-protected content can attract heavy viewing traffic, which makes websites offering such content a potentially lucrative way to serve advertisements. The subject domain names currently feature such advertising networks.
Based on the pervasive use of advertising on each site, the investigation alleges that the purpose for distributing the infringing content is the private financial gain to these websites’ operators. By seizing the subject domain names, the government prevents third parties from acquiring the name and using it to commit additional crimes, or from continuing to access the websites in their present forms.
“The Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center is committed to working with our partners to protect the interests of legitimate businesses,” said Jim Mancuso, IPR Center director. “When criminals pirate stolen content, they harm the economy and threaten people’s jobs.”
For more than two decades, the IPR Center, working collaboratively with its public-private sector partners, has led the effort in the government’s response to combating global intellectual property theft and enforcing intellectual property rights violations. The center was established to combat global intellectual property theft – and, accordingly, has a significant role in policing the sale and distribution of counterfeit goods on websites, social media, and the dark web.