The NBA, NFL and UFC want instantaneous DMCA takedowns

Three major American sports leagues want to speed up Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedowns. In a letter posted and reported by TorrentFreak (via The Verge), the UFC, NBA and NFL urged the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to make the removal process for illegal livestreams nearly instantaneous. The organizations say the global sports industry is losing up to $28 billion from fans watching pirated live feeds instead of paid ones.

“The rampant piracy of live sports events causes tremendous harm to our companies,” legal representatives for the UFC, NBA and NFL allegedly wrote in the letter. The leagues say online service providers often take “hours or even days” to take down infringing content — leaving illegal sports streams plenty of time to complete the event without removal. “This is particularly damaging to our companies given the unique time-sensitivity of live sports content.”

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s language in Section 512 is at the heart of the complaint, which states that content must be removed “expeditiously.” The UFC, NBA and NFL want the wording changed to “instantaneously or near-instantaneously” to help with their revenue problems. “This would be a relatively modest and non-controversial update to the DMCA that could be included in the broader reforms being considered by Congress or could be addressed separately,” the posted letter reads.

The letter didn’t address sports fans’ distaste for regional blackouts, which many viewers likely use the pirated feeds to bypass.

The leagues also ask the USPTO to consider more stringent requirements for online service providers to verify users posting livestreams. They ask for “particular verification measures,” including blocking the ability to stream from newly created accounts or those with few subscribers. “Certain [online service providers] already impose measures like these, demonstrating that the measures are feasible, practical and important tools to reduce livestream piracy,” the letter reads.

Sending a letter is the first step in communicating intent, but the UFC, NBA and NFL will likely have a long road ahead if they want to change the DMCA. The law, signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1998, has faced numerous calls for change in the following decades — both from media companies wanting stricter measures and users who believe it gives copyright holders too much power. Changing it would require Congress to pass a law revising it, which is never a quick or easy process.

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