Feds Blitz Sports Piracy Websites Ahead Of Super Bowl XLV

Look out, Pittsburgh Steal-ers: The domains of at least five websites notorious for carrying illegal feeds of live sporting events were seized by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement just days before the Super Bowl, the biggest TV event of the year in the United States.

Five sites have been targeted and replaced with seizure-warrant notices from ICE: Rojadirecta.org, Channelsurfing.net, Firstrow.net, Atdhe.net and Ilemi.com. Rojadirecta is one of the most popular sites in its home country, Spain. Some of the sites simply continue operating at different URLs.

The takedowns were first reported by blog Torrentfreak.

The aforementioned sites are just a few of the dozens that appeared in a perusal of message boards where pirates discuss obtaining illegal sports feeds.

“Atdhe.net ilemi.com firstrow.net Always always ALWAYS has a Link to watch the Game and a HUGE possibility of an HD cast also,” an individual wrote on a NewYorkJets.com message board.

The timing of the closures could be coincidental, but ICE has only moved a few times before to shut down sites alleged to either link to or host copyright-infringing material. And they have a knack for making their previous seizures topical, too: An 82-site removal in November aimed at sites trafficking in counterfeit goods came right on the heels of Cyber Monday. Several of those sites specialized in counterfeit NFL apparel.

ICE and NFL have yet to respond to inquiries for comment.

The U.S. government has been pretty responsive to previous appeals from pro-sports organizations. In December 2009, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the subject of live-sports piracy. The U.S. Trade Representative issued a report decrying live-sports piracy prior to last year’s Olympics in Vancouver.

Big sporting events are typically a feast for pirates, and NFL has long been an aggressive pursuer of illegal feeds. Over the course of the 2009 NFL season, over 2,800 unauthorized online piracy streams of games were taken down by the league.