Alleged UFC Copyright Infringing Website Seized by Dept. of Homeland Security

By J.R. Riddell Feb 3, 2011
On Tuesday federal prosecutors in New York combined forces with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents to seize 10 websites that allegedly stream various sporting events, UFC pay-per-views included, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. 

Among the websites shut down was one very familiar to the UFC.  Last August, the UFC succeeded in obtaining a temporary restraining order to prevent the website HQ-Streams.com, from streaming a live webcast of UFC 118, which was held in Boston.   

As previously reported by Sherdog.com, the UFC obtained a restraining order in the U.S. District Court of Nevada against the website allegedly owned by Johnny Tike.  Prior to being seized, the HQ-Streams.com website boasted that it provided regular MMA and pro wrestling live event streams to its patrons.  In stark contrast, now visitors to the website are greeted with the message “This domain name has been seized by ICE -- Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent in Charge, New York Office, in accordance with a seizure warrant obtained by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.”     

In seeking its temporary restraining order and permanent injunction last August, Zuffa alleged HQ-Streams.com webcasted, without its permission, UFC 113, held on May 8, and UFC 117 on Aug. 7 to viewers for either a $6.99 flat fee or under a $11.99 monthly subscription.  Zuffa also alleged that the site infringed on its trademark rights by posting UFC marks, including advertisements for the UFC 118 event, as well as other marks “nearly identical” and/or “confusingly similar” to its own.  In granting the restraining order, the judge required the website to remove said marks and advertisements.  The website immediately posted the following message: “Too (sic) All Members Of The Forum, There won't be any UFC 118 stream here this Saturday. We don't want our site to get into troubles with Zuffa!”  

Following entry of the TRO, in September 2010, Zuffa and alleged website owner Johnny Tike entered into a stipulated permanent injunction and dismissal.  The parties stipulated that Tike had in fact posted Zuffa copyrighted material on the HQ-Streams website or permitted others to do so, and agreed that the website would be prohibited from sharing Zuffa’s copyrighted broadcasts in the future.  Based on the joint stipulation of Zuffa and Tike, the judge entered an injunction to permanently prohibit the website from streaming Zuffa broadcasts.  Because the legal remedy sought by Zuffa had been resolved through the stipulation, the judge dismissed the action at Zuffa’s request on Sept. 16, 2010.   

Although HQ-Streams.com was permanently enjoined from streaming Zuffa’s content, the U.S. Attorney’s press release suggests the website may have still been used to promote distribution of unauthorized UFC pay-per-views and events broadcast by the NFL, NBA, NHL and WWE.  “The websites seized yesterday were popular "linking" sites -- a type of website that provides access, or "links," to other websites where pirated sporting and Pay-Per-View events are hosted. Users simply click on a link to begin the process of downloading or streaming to their own computer an illegal broadcast of a sporting event from the third party website that is hosting the stream. Linking websites are popular because they allow users to quickly browse content and locate illegal streams that would otherwise be more difficult to find.”

According to the Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, “with the Super Bowl just days away, the seizures of these infringing websites reaffirm our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to protect copyrighted material and put the people who steal it out of business."  Of course, Sherdog.com readers are aware that UFC 126 precedes any broadcast feed of the Super Bowl.

In a press release sent Wednesday evening, UFC President Dana White commented on the matter in an official statement:

“The very forceful actions taken by Mr. Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Mr. Morton, the Director of ICE, against these parasitic websites is very welcome news. The criminal theft of Pay-Per-View events has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars of revenue to not only the UFC and its fighters, but has also deprived federal, state and local government of their rightful entitlement to significant tax revenue.

“On behalf of the UFC and its fighters, I extend my sincerest thanks to Mr. Bharara, Mr. Morton, and the many Assistant United States Attorneys and Agents of Homeland Security Investigations who worked so tirelessly during the course of this intensive investigation.”  



“J.R.” Riddell, an attorney at the global law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, is experienced in various matters related to the business of MMA. A more detailed background regarding his experience is available through his lawyer profile at www.orrick.com. This article does not provide legal advice, and any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of his law firm. Riddell can be reached at jriddell@sherdog.com. Tracey Lesetar (tlesetar@sherdog.com) contributed to this article.
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