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Intellectual Property Rights

HSI agents arrest website operator that illegally streamed copyrighted sporting events

NEW YORK - The operator of a website that illegally streamed live, copyrighted sporting events on the Internet was arrested this morning by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Bryan McCarthy, 32, of Deer Park, Texas, was taken into custody at his home and is charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright. He was the operator of channelsurfing.net, which was seized by federal authorities on Feb. 1, 2011, as part of an ongoing 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 of the site, it has received more than 1.3 million hits.

"Today's arrest is another step forward in the ongoing investigation by New York HSI Agents into copyright infringement and theft of intellectual property rights," said James T. Hayes, special agent in charge of HSI in New York. "We will continue to investigate illegal streaming of programming on the Internet in an effort to preserve legitimate and creative business interests and deter others from engaging in online piracy."

"Brian McCarthy allegedly sought to profit by intercepting and then streaming live sporting events, hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to make a quick buck through what is little more than high-tech thievery," said Preet Bhara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. "This arrest sends a clear message that this office, working with its partners at HSI, will vigorously protect valuable intellectual property rights through arrests and domain name seizures."

According to the criminal complaint unsealed Thursday in federal court and the seizure affidavit, channelsurfing.net was an online portal to pirated telecasts of sporting events of the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Hockey League (NHL), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). 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. During the investigation, HSI agents downloaded portions of live copyrighted telecasts of various sporting events. The website also contained links to various live television channels as well.

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

If convicted on the charge of criminal infringement of a copyright, 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 Frey is in charge of the prosecution.

The charge contained in the complaint is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The press release announcing the seizure of this website in February is available by clicking here.