Mayweather vs McGregor streams: Free live feeds spreading over internet despite anti-piracy attempts

The fight is probably going to be the most pirated event in history

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 24 August 2017 15:28 BST
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Live streams of the biggest boxing match in history are already spreading across the internet.

The fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor is likely to be the most pirated event in history. And it is looking almost impossible to stop.

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As such, with days left to go before the fight starts, free live links are spreading across the web and are readily available through Google.

Showtime, which is broadcasting the fight on pay-per-view in the US, has already tried to stop streams through the courts and has had success in taking many of them down. But it is unlikely to have a great deal of success.

Such pre-emptive strikes are very rare, but are useful as a way of dealing with big sporting events – and was seen in previous instances like the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight. It is necessary to try and take down copyright infringement before it happens because such events are primarily made available live, meaning that there can be little time to stop such piracy happening once the even has actually begun.

Such takedowns are enabled by a rule in the US Copyright Act that allows content owners to take sites down, only in the special situation that they are being broadcast live. It was written in recognition of the fact that such live events are extremely valuable but that value is destroyed once the event is actually over, since nobody wants to watch a boxing match after it has happened.

The threat of going through the courts has deterred pirates in the past. But it tends simply to send them to other routes – during that fight, for instance, many people simply headed to Periscope and other streaming services rather than using links that are hosted on problem sites, which are easy to take down. This time around, it's likely that many people will host such streams on Facebook Live, which has become the livestreaming platform of choice for many people.

Those sites offer a special challenge because while copyright law makes it relatively easy to take down sites that are hosting only pirated content, it's impossible for Showtime or any other copyright holder to have a website like Facebook removed. Some sites have tried to add content recognition tools that can see what is being streamed and shut it down if it is illegal – but those aren't thought to be in place in any meaningful way on Facebook Live, Periscope or any other major livestreaming app.

It's still likely that some illegal websites will continue to host streams. On Reddit, for instance, some users are already posting links to what appear to be streams – and though they are not live yet, it's likely that they will be at some point in the future.

The official and only legal way to watch the fight in the UK and Ireland is to buy it through Sky Box Office. In the US, the pay-per-view is being offered through Showtime.

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