If you're a sports fan of any type, then it's likely that you've become familiar with a cryptically-named, poorly designed site called ATDHE that lists video streams of nearly any and every sporting event on TV. It was totally awesome and totally legally questionable. And now, it's totally taken down by Homeland Security.
Of course, the story of ATDHE's takedown and subsequent re-emergence is another example of the resilience of information online and the amusing game of Whac-A-Mole that is illegal information on the Internet.
TechDirt's Mike Masnick wrote about a spate of domain name seizures over Thanksgiving Weekend last November much like today's. According to CrunchGear's Nicholas Deleon, ATDHE isn't alone, with rojadirecta.org suffering a similar fate.
As we saw with WikiLeaks, however, when people want something on the Internet to stay on the Internet badly enough, it's only a matter of moments before a mirror pops up in another location. One tweet illustrated the situation, saying "RIP atdhe.net while celebrating the birth of atdhe.me."
The first tweets mentioning the disappearance of ATDHE started at around noon pacific. By two in the afternoon, tweets began mentioning ATDHE.me, the replacement site. In much the same way, the ATDHE Twitter account also quickly tweeted out the IP address to use until the site went back online under a different name.
What makes the whole thing even more interesting is that ATDHE.net didn't host any illegal content. It was a list of links to homemade video streams on sites like Justin.tv. As we saw with content takedowns on Twitter last April, however, direct hosting of content may not be necessary to remove something - just linking may be enough. With ATDHE, streams consisted of someone literally pointing a camera on a tripod at their television and streaming that. Where does the illegality come into play here and is seizing the domain name the answer?
There's one thing for sure, it's surely the ineffective answer on the part of the authorities, but I bet sports fans won't be complaining.
Update: TorrentFreak has a list of sites taken down in similar manner today. The article points out similar questions regarding the legality of not only the content, but the takedown:
Similar to BitTorrent sites, Rojadirecta doesn't host any copyrighted material. Instead, it indexes HTTP links to sports streams that can already be found on the Internet, and also carries links to .torrent files which are hosted on other sites.
The site is owned by a Spanish company that pays its taxes and has been declared to operate legally in Spain. In addition, the site is not hosted in the US either. The only connection to the US is that the .org domain is maintained by a US company.
This indirect connection to the US makes the seizure a dubious action, according to Rojadirecta's owner. "In our opinion the US authorities are completely despising the Spanish justice system and sovereignty," Seoane told TorrentFreak.