Everyone knows you might find yourself in legal trouble if your website pirates live sporting events.
However, if the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has its way, you could get sued just for watching them.
The website Greenfeedz.com, now shut down, allegedly pirated streams of 12 straight UFC fights before and charged viewers for the service.
“We're going to be able to find lots of names, emails, telephone numbers and sometimes even addresses to identify those people that are watching illegally," Lawrence Epstein, chief legal counsel for the UFC, told the website MMA Junkie.
The UFC prides itself on being widely accessible online and has made streams of recent fights available on YouTube and Facebook. The cost is about the same price as ordering the fights through pay-per-view for a personal television.
The league has “an obligation to go out there and try to protect [its] intellectual property,” Epstein said, though the UFC reportedly hasn’t yet decided the exact criteria it will use to sue users or for how much.
Though it’s unprecedented, suing the consumers of pirated streams—rather than only the providers—“wouldn’t be laughed out of court,” Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who specializes in copyright, told the Daily Dot.
There “might have a case against people who watch illegal streams of its fights,” he said, “because streaming might be a ‘public performance’ reserved to its copyright owner.”
The UFC has a long history of aggressively protecting its intellectual property. Its bombastic president, Dana White, was a vocal supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which invoked the wrath of the hacker group Anonymous.
Online fans of the UFC are not pleased with news of the suit. “This is how you lose fans and cause people to hate you,” wrote nerd_prime on Reddit’s r/MMA.
Another user pointed out that in January, White tweeted a link to a YouTube video that mixed an image of an MMA fighter with copyrighted footage from Office Space.
The tweet is “an act of extreme hypocrisy,” tweeted redditor hungrybackpack. “I don't understand how they can support fan-made videos that contain stolen content, then sue over fans watching the UFC online.”
UFC did not respond to a request for comment in time for this story.
Photo via @DanaWhite