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Baltimore, Maryland – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland has announced the seizure of 55 separate websites for allegedly live streaming the World Cup games, an infringement of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) copyrights. Individuals visiting the sites will now see a message that the site has been seized by the federal government and be redirected to another site for additional information.
The seizure of the domain names was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations – Baltimore; and Director James R. Mancuso of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the seizures, 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. Beginning in September 2022, HSI received information from a representative of FIFA identifying several sites being used to distribute and transmit copyright-infringing content, without FIFA’s authorization. HSI Agents in Maryland reviewed World Cup games accessible from each of the subject domain names, in violation of FIFA’s copyright.
As detailed in the affidavit, 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. Based on the pervasive use of advertising on each site, the affidavit 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.
“HSI will continue to focus on removing websites that facilitate digital piracy, and other intellectual property violations, from the internet,” said Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris III 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.”
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite commended HSI for its work in this investigation and thanked the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance for their assistance. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron S.J. Zelinsky and Stephanie Williamson and Trial Attorneys from the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, who are handling the case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao/md.
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