No pirate is safe from the increasingly digitally-inclined Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office. “MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY ANNOUNCES CHARGES AGAINST MICHIGAN MAN FOR ILLEGALLY STREAMING LIVE SPORTING EVENTS OVER THE INTERNET,” screamed a press release this morning.
A complaint spells out exactly when and where investigators accessed the 16 websites operated by Cedar Rapids-based Yonjo Quiroa, alias Ronaldo Solano, in order to furtively stream events such as Wizards vs. 76ers, Magic vs. Celtics and World Wrestling Entertainment’s Monday Night Raw. Did the detectives allow themselves to watch any of the 31 broadcasts they documented, just a little bit? Did they choke back a cheer when the Knicks trounced the Bobcats?
Speaking of the Knicks, the shutdown of the sites is poor timing for the team’s fans. A month-long spat between Madison Square Garden and Time Warner has prevented New Yorkers from watching the games.
As for why the Michigan man is being prosecuted in the Southern District, the complaint and press release gave no clue. Luis Martinez, ICE agent, explained. “People were streaming video here in New York so we started the case here,” he said.
Mr. Quiroa, who was arrested yesterday in his home state, is being charged with one count of criminal infringement of a copyright, which is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000, or both for a first-time offender. Repeat offenders can be imprisoned up to 10 years, fined up to $250,000, or both.
“Sports fans may be tempted by illegal streaming websites, but in the end, it is they who pay the price,” tough-talking Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement about the virtual thievery. “These websites and their operators deprive sports leagues and networks of legitimate revenue, forcing spectators and viewers to bear the cost of this piracy down the line.”
Piracy represents lost revenue, the argument goes, which manifests as higher prices for spectators and viewers. By that logic, fans watching in groups at a bar or a friend’s house also represent lost revenue. We suggest you snap a photo of your Super Bowl fete on Sunday and fax it to Time Warner with an accurate headcount.