A 19-year-old New York man faces up to five years in prison after federal authorities arrested him on Tuesday for allegedly streaming live copyrighted sporting events over the Internet.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced that Mohamed Ali was taken into custody at his home and charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright.
"Today's arrest sends a clear message to website operators who mistakenly believe it's worth the risk to take copyrighted programming and portray it as their own," ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.
"Protecting legitimate business interests are a priority for HSI, the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center and our law enforcement partners. We are dedicated to protecting the jobs, the income and the tax revenue that disappear when organized criminals traffic in stolen content for their own profit."
Ali was the operator of site that provided online access to telecasts of sporting events and pay-per-view events, such as the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Ultimate Fighting Championship and (UFC) and boxing events. The website did not host the pirated content. Rather, it embedded video displays whose content was running on a stream from another website.
The two domain names associated with the site, HQ-STREAMS.COM and HQ-STREAMS.NET, were seized by ICE in February as part of "Operation in Our Sites," an ongoing investigation into websites that illegally offer copyrighted material.
Ali made more than $6,000 in profits from February 2010 to January 2011, according to ICE.
Another man from New York, Brian McCarthy, was arrested in March and charged with criminal copyright infringement. He was the owner of channelsurfing.net.
The advocacy group Demand Progress called the arrest a "shocking overreach."
While the criminal complaint alleges that McCarthy did engage in the "reproduction and distribution" of copyrighted material, it is never clear that he actually reproduced any of the specified broadcasts.
"Under that sort of thinking, everyone who's sent around a link to a copyrighted YouTube video is a criminal," Demand Progress warned, calling the prosecution a "radical shift" in the way the government polices the Internet.