In case you missed it, the other day there was a collective moan from sports fans around the world. The Internet domain name for popular sports video-streaming Web site Atdhe.net was seized by the Department of Homeland Security as part of a larger crackdown on sites that were allegedly infringing on copyright laws.
In advance of Sunday's game, federal officers armed with court-issued warrants also seized the online domains for Channelsurfing.net, HQ-streams.com, HQstreams.net, Firstrow.net, Ilemi.com, Iilemi.com, Iilemii.com, Rojadirecta.org, and Rojadirecta.com.
Thousands of people had come to rely on Atdhe.net for watching live sporting events that they didn't want to pay for or didn't have access to because of geographical restrictions. In actuality, the site was an aggregator that, according to the warrants, "provided illegal access to copyrighted telecasts of the U.S. National Football League, National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship." (You could add just about every sport you've ever heard of along with a bunch of other copyrighted telecasts.) Some observers have also pointed out that it profited from those illegal streams by feeding them into its ad network.
"The illegal streaming of professional sporting events over the Internet deals a financial body blow to the leagues and broadcasters who are forced to pass their losses off to the fans in the form of higher priced tickets and pay-per-view events," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement, urging the court to order the Web site operators to permanently forfeit the domain names.
He added: "With the Super Bowl just days away, the seizures of these infringing Web sites reaffirm our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to protect copyrighted material and put the people who steal it out of business."
Needless to say, the Internet was abuzz with posters who didn't feel quite the same way. For example, on Areapal.com, one person wrote:
"So Dana White [UFC president] got the Dept of Homeland Security to shut down my favorite website ATDHE.NET because they played all the UFC PPV's for free...like the DOHS doesn't have anything better to do than keep people from watching sports free on the internet. What a waste..."
What did Atdhe.net do? Well, not long after the site went down, word went out that it had moved to Atdhe.me. However, that domain apparently turned out to be an interloper that had nothing to do with the previous site. But Atdhe.net had indeed moved.
A statement at the top of its new site reads:
Notice: Atdhe.net domain was seized. We will continue on with the website. If you want to continue accessing the site please bookmark www.atdhenet.tv. Any website using the ATDHE alias (other than one mentioned above) in their domain is not operated by us. Use them at your own risk.
Message boards soon lit up with the news that the site had returned at a different Web address.
"When one goes down, four more will go up," noted one person on Hfboards.com, a hockey fan site, hinting at the whack-a-mole situation the government faces. "No big deal."