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Intellectual Property Rights

Website operator indicted for illegally streaming copyrighted sporting events

NEW YORK — The operator of a website that allegedly streamed live, copyrighted sporting events on the Internet illegally was indicted on Oct. 22 for criminal infringement of a copyright.

Bryan McCarthy, 32, of Deer Park, Texas, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and one substantive count of criminal infringement of copyright. The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI).

"McCarthy will now have to answer for allegedly stealing a product that never belonged to him. He knew and should have known the events being broadcast were copyright-protected," said James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent in charge of HSI in New York. "American business is threatened by those who pirate copyrighted material. We will continue to target those who steal the ideas of legitimate and creative businesses."

According to the indictment, between 2005 and Jan. 31, 2011, McCarthy operated channelsurfing.net and provided links on that website to various live streams of copyright-protected sporting event telecasts without authorization, such as a telecast of a basketball game that was protected by a copyright held by the National Basketball Association (NBA).

On Feb. 1, 2011, HSI agents seized channelsurfing.net, as part of an ongoing ICE HSI investigation into websites that illegally streamed copyrighted sporting telecasts and pay-per-view events. The investigation into McCarthy revealed that he made more than $90,000 in profits from online merchants who paid him to advertise on the website. Since the seizure, the website has been redirected to a seizure banner, which has received more than 1.3 million hits. The seizure banner notifies website visitors that a federal court order has been issued for the domain name and explains that willful copyright is a federal crime.

According to the seizure affidavit, channelsurfing.net was an online portal to pirated telecasts of sporting events of the National Football League, the NBA, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. All of these organizations hold the copyrights to the televised broadcasts of their respective sporting events.

Visitors to channelsurfing.net would simply click on one of a number of links to begin the process of downloading or streaming an illegal broadcast of a sporting event. The website contained links to various live television channels as well.

McCarthy registered the channelsurfing.net domain name in December 2005 and operated the website out of his home in Texas until the time of its seizure. At the time it was seized, channelsurfing.net was one of the most popular websites that streamed illegal content.

If convicted on the charges in the indictment, McCarthy faces a maximum of five years in prison. This case is being handled by the Southern District of New York's Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher D. Frey is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. As a task force, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 19 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.

To report IP theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit http://www.iprcenter.gov/.