Super Bowl Preview: ICE Seizes Websites Allegedly Pirating NFL Games

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has "seized" 16 Websites that it says were illegally streaming sports video, including NFL games. That announcement came in Indianapolis Thursday as the NFL prepared for its annual Super Bowl weekend activities there.

In addition, a 28-year-old Michigan man was arrested and charged with criminal infringement related to the operation of nine of the 16 sites, which ICE said were illegally streaming live televised sports and pay-per-view events.

The seizures came as part of operation Fake Sweep, an effort to crack down on pirated NFL content that ICE says netted more than $4.8 million in fake merchandise and the seizure of over 300 Websites dealing in pirated hard and soft goods, including the video streaming. Operation Fake Sweep was launched last October and ICE said it has already netted over 42,000 fake Super Bowl-related memorabilia including caps, shirts and jackets.

The federal government has been making a concerted effort to crack down on online piracy for the past 18 months. Visitors to the seized sites will see a banner identifying them as such and informing surfers that copyright infringement is a federal crime.

ICE said that since that federal crackdown -- operation In Our Sites -- launched in June 2010, 669 domain names have been seized.

ICE says it will continue monitoring sites throughout the weekend. This is the first year that the Super Bowl is being streamed live.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.