By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - With the Super Bowl just four days away, U.S. prosecutors said they have seized 10 popular websites that illegally streamed live sports and pay-per-view events on the Internet.
Prosecutors said the websites provided links to give users easy access to other sites that host pirated, copyrighted telecasts from the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc and Ultimate Fighting Championship, which involves mixed martial arts.
Tuesday's seizures were justified because the websites were "used to commit and facilitate criminal copyright infringement and contain evidence of that crime," Daniel Brazier, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an affidavit.
The websites are atdhe.net, channelsurfing.net, firstrow.net, hq-streams.com, hq-streams.net, ilemi.com, iilemi.com, iilemii.com, rojadirecta.com and rojadirecta.org.
Rojadirecta, a Spanish company, confirmed on its website that its two similarly named websites were seized. It did not return an email seeking a comment.
Contact information for the other website operators could not immediately be located.
Prosecutors estimated that sports leagues and broadcasters lose millions of dollars annually from illegal streaming.
The practice "deals a financial body blow to the leagues and broadcasters who are forced to pass their losses off to fans by raising prices for tickets and pay-per-view events," Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
"With the Super Bowl just days away, the seizures of these infringing websites reaffirm our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to protect copyrighted material and put the people who steal it out of business," he added.
Prosecutors are seeking the forfeiture of the websites' domain names. Visitors to the websites on Wednesday would see banners reflecting the seizures.
UFC is owned by privately held Zuffa LLC.
The case is U.S. v. The Following Domain Names: HQ-Streams.com et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-mag-00262.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit. Editing by Robert MacMillan)