Skip to main content

House to Hear Testimony on Live Sports Piracy

Executives from ESPN, Major League Baseball and the Ultimate Fighting Championship are scheduled to testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington Dec. 16 about the pirating of live sports broadcasts.

According to prepared testimony, from UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta, piracy "kills jobs" and "threatens the expansion of U.S.-based companies.

Both Fertitta and ESPN Executive VP Ed Durso pointed to Justin.TV, among others, as sites that enable the theft of their live sports video.

Justin.TV is also scheduled to testify, and claims that it is trying to crack down on its technology to prevent that piracy.

Fertitta gave Justin.TV some props for the effort. "To their credit," he said, "they have reached out to us recently to explore ways to stem" the piracy of IFC content, adding that he wished other sites would follow suit.

He said he had no legislative agenda but wanted the committee to be aware of the technological challenges out there to protecting content.

According to Durso's prepared testimony, ESPN's cable nets are "regularly available" on sites like Justin.TV "without authorization and without compensation."

He says the video is pirated either by downloading TV output to a computer or by hacking directly into Internet streams. Or it can be as simple as recording a show off the TV with a camcorder and upload it.

Among the issues teed up in the committee report on Wednesday's hearing are whether Congress should "codify contributory or vicarious copyright infringement or inducement," what sports leagues and broadcasters themselves have done to combat the piracy, and whether the burden of policing the Web should fall on content owners if ISPs provide them with a way to remove infringing content.

The hearing comes a day after studio heads met with Vice President Joe Biden about online piracy and other IP theft.