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Fade to black: Feds shut down online sports broadcast sites

Websites accused of illegally streaming the Super Bowl and other sports broadcasts online were thrown for a loss this week in New York when federal officials served seizure warrants and shut down the illicit Internet broadcasters.

The seizure action could have broad ramifications for pay-per-view telecasts, including those of the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship. In addition to the NFL and UFC, NBA, NHL, and World Wrestling Entertainment broadcasts are affected, according to the seizure warrant. The sports leagues allegedly lose millions of dollars a year in pay-per-view revenue to pirate Web broadcasters.

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John T. Morton on Wednesday announced the raid of 10 websites.

UFC attorney Donald Campbell, a former Organized Crime Strike Force prosecutor, called the seizure action a victory for the copyright holders and his clients. Campbell and law partner Colby Williams represent the UFC in litigation against Justin.tv, one of the Internet operators shut down in this week’s raid. Justin.tv is accused of pirating UFC pay-per-view broadcasts.

The unanswered question is whether the seizure will slow the theft, or merely force the thieves to switch channels.

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