“We’re not gonna take it!” The lyrics originally sang by Twisted Sister are apparently words the U.S. government is now living by when it comes to online piracy. Mainly guided by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the feds made it their mission to crack down on pirating websites in 2011 and have shown no signs of letting up in 2012. However, the plethora of domains that have recently been seized is proof that the cleanup efforts are spanning beyond the pirate game.

Sports Streaming Sites in the Penalty

As far as the war on piracy is concerned, the takedown of Hong Kong-based file sharing site MegaUpload may have been the DOJ’s biggest victory, but it was only the beginning of its apparent New Year’s resolution. The agency kicked off Super Bowl season with a bang by pulling the plug on hundreds of sports streaming sites just days before one of the world’s most watched sporting events took place.

Among those caught up in the seizure was the First Row Sports network of domains, which included firstrowsports.com and firstrowsports.tv, as well as Soccertvlive.net. Of the more than 300 domains seized, the DOJ alleges that 16 were running unauthorized streams of live sporting events, while the rest were selling fake sports paraphernalia, which was said to have included hats, jerseys and other goods. According to government officials, U.S. authorities seized $4.8 million in counterfeit NFL merchandise alone.

Connect Streaming to Pirating

The U.S. government has been successful in taking down a number of streaming sites over the past year, but with the exception of torrent-finder.com and those included in the MegaUpload network, how many of them were actually tied to pirating seems questionable. However, when factoring in the law and all the technical aspects, it becomes clear that streamers really don’t have a leg to stand on. By definition, piracy refers to the unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted material. So while streaming sites may not seem to fit the description on first glance, they do after we have a closer look.

When a user streams a piece of content like, say, a live sporting event, they are watching that event in real-time. Since the event is live, they are only able to watch it once as it happens. This may not seem like a big deal to the viewer, but the content owners and event organizers certainly have a reason to be angry. Why? Because even though the content is not being redistributed, the streaming sites are still giving it away without compensating the people who have rights to it. The sites that do charge to view content are not sharing that money with those parties, so the concerns are definitely warranted.

In the eyes of U.S. authorities, operators of streaming sites and pirating sites may as well be one and the same, which is why they appear to be subject to similar penalties. For instance, Zediva, a once promising startup company, found itself out of pocket when it lost a legal dispute with Hollywood last year over copyright issues. The company was running a rental-like service similar to Blockbuster, but due to the fact that it was streaming content, failing to secure deals with movie studios resulted in a permanent closure, and an agreement to pay Hollywood $1.8 million.

File sharing sites, streaming sites, torrent sites – they are all on the DOJ’s watchlist for contributing to the ongoing problem of internet piracy. While it looks like some are being targeted more than others, one would assume that U.S. authorities would stamp them all out if only they could.