UFC Urges the US Congress to Incentivize Proactive Piracy Blocking

By Bill Toulas / June 26, 2019

The General Counsel of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) urges the US Congress to develop incentives that would push online platforms to block pirated live-streams on the internet without requiring a takedown notice. Mixed Martial Arts are a very popular pirating category, and live broadcasts are becoming available through numerous links right before a match starts, as well as throughout its duration. Broadcast rights owners find it very difficult to deal with this problem as new links get posted on social media all the time, so no matter how many are blocked, more pop up all the time.

There are even dedicated IPTV channels and whole subscription packages that are focused on MMA fights, and the takedown notices that reach these services are wholly ignored. Even their hosting services take their side, promising not to take the live feeds down in the case that the rightsholder sends a notice. We have documented this issue again in the past, and it is evident that the people behind this product (fighting sports) are taking every step that they can to protect their business and interests. Recently, the NBA and the UFC asked for the criminalization of IPTV streaming, and now UFC is also proposing pro-active blocking.

According to UFC’s Riche McKnight, although they have agreed on specific takedown arrangements with several social media companies that host the links that pop up during a fighting match, the online platforms seem to be neglectful to the requests and so the links aren’t removed immediately. This causes considerable damage to the rightsholders, as even minutes of online existence for these links translate to many thousands of illegal viewers. McKnight proposes a change in the law that would push social media giants like Facebook to remove these links proactively, without even requiring notice from the UFC. As McKnight told the senators: “Private, voluntary partnerships [with online platforms] are not sufficient to combat online piracy. Addressing this problem requires a new approach that includes a strong legal framework, a combination of private and public enforcement, and enhanced cooperation with our international partners.”

The criminalization of streaming remains the primary goal of UFC’s lobbying, as this will change the field decisively. Until then though, a transition from reactive to proactive takedowns would allow for much-needed breathing space for the legitimate broadcasters, who are now with their backs on the wall. The US Congress will now have to consider what new legal framework would facilitate UFC’s requirements, and one that would include upload filters is, unfortunately, a real possibility at this point.

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