justintv-logoPiracy and copyright infringement seem to go hand in hand with the Internet. And online video is no exception. Now, the trend for sports events to be broadcast over live streaming services such as Justin.tv, Ustream, and Livestream is being discussed by the House Judiciary Committee.

Online Video Piracy

As long as online video has existed, someone, somewhere has used the medium to broadcast or relay copyrighted content. YouTube had a huge problem with this until Google bought it out and cleaned up the site’s act, but Viacom is still suing for $1 billion.

Now, thanks to DMCA provisions and companies going through the right channels, copyrighted material which does show up on YouTube and other VoD sites quickly disappears, as anyone trying to find a clip from last night’s TV will attest.

But live streaming sites offer a new challenge.

Live Streaming Copyrighted Events

Lifecasting sites such as Justin.tv, Ustream, and Livestream (formerly Mogulus) were built to enable anyone to broadcast their lives online. But the live streaming nature of the whole business clearly has other uses.

One of these is to basically pick up a camera and point it at a TV showing a live sports event or some other such output which is not available to all, whether because of copyright restrictions or the need to subscribe.

The case of Ustream being sued by Square Ring after an alleged 2,377 users were able to watch the pay-per-view Roy Jones Jr. vs Omar Sheika fight back in August uncovers the problem.

House Hearing

Now, the trend has reached the dizzying heights of the United States House of Representatives. It’s holding a hearing on the subject titled the ‘Piracy of Live Sports Broadcasting Over the Internet’.

Te list of witnesses attending the hearing hasn’t been published but it’s expected to include Justin.tv CEO Michael Seibel, as well as representatives from ESPN, UFC, and MLB. Although the latter three parties will obviously be on the other team to Siebel.

Siebel is expected to counter the arguments against his site and others like it by pointing towards its Copyright Protection System and the DMCA safe harbor provision which should, by all rights, protect Justin.tv and the others from prosecution assuming the stick to the letter of the law.


Whether this hearing will achieve anything seems unlikely. Instead, it’ll boil down to the two sides arguing their case and the politicians not really understanding the issues being debated.

This trend for broadcasting live events is clearly one that needs addressing, but I have wholly failed to even conceive of a solution which will appease both sides. As the law stands at the moment, the lifecasters are safe. Whether that means the law is failing depends on your point of view.

[Via NewTeeVee]

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