World Cup kicks off piracy battles

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World Cup kicks off piracy battles

Mon Jun 14, 2010 @ 01:11PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

149 Ratings are strong for this year's World Cup extravaganza, with record or near-record amounts of viewers tuning in to the globe's biggest sports event.

Of course, that gets us thinking about piracy. This year, the World Cup has caused a tremendous amount of political intrigue thanks to exclusive broadcaster rights deals and those attempting to work around restrictions. A few examples:
  • A South Korean television company is accusing its neighbors to the north of stealing its signal. The alleged piracy is escalating tensions between North and South Korea.
  • Much of the Middle East couldn't see the opening games because an unknown entity was jamming the signal of Al Jazeera Sport, the network with exclusive broadcasting rights for the tournament in the Middle East and North Africa. FIFA slammed the jamming, and some accused an Egyptian broadcaster of being the cause. The Egyptian company is now threatening to sue Al Jazeera for making the suggestion it was behind "the act of piracy." 
  • Football fans in Hong Kong are upset because they've been ordered by the government to stop using satellite antennas to see mainland China's CCTV coverage of the World Cup. Violators have been warned about being sued for copyright infringement if they continue to tune in to China's coverage. 
That's just the tip of the iceberg. There may be as many as thousands of unauthorized streams of the games on the Internet. FIFA is known to protect its rights strongly, but at this point, there's not much that the sports organization or broadcasters can do to stop all the pirated web streams out there

On Twitter, a number of fans have casually asked whether watching a stream opens themselves up to being sued for copyright infringement. Maybe, but the risk seems extremely low at the moment.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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