Bad News for Illegal UFC Fight Streamers as New Bill Imposes Crackdown

Published 12/28/2020, 10:30 AM EST
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – SEPTEMBER 07: A general view of the Octagon during UFC 242 at The Arena on September 7, 2019 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)


UFC fight streams may change forever after the details of the new U.S. stimulus bill were revealed. While ESPN+ and other official providers will continue hosting major fights at the rates they do, pirated streams will bear the brunt of this.

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Illegal streaming is now going to become a felony, with jail time of up to 10 years.

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While there have been multiple attempts to curtail piracy and ‘free use’, this is the most stringent move yet. We recently saw the European Union pass Article 13 to crack down on copyright law. This law even stretched to memes and other creative interpretation of content. But it was later amended.

This move was long expected. Illegal fight streams hurt the bottom line of the major corporations like the UFC and ESPN. A crackdown on it will make fight streaming much riskier, as the penalty is far more intense than it ever was.

UFC streaming: How will this affect everyone else?

The implications of a law like this are hard to gauge, mainly because of the grey area around certain aspects of copyright law. We have been seeing people stream fight cards on platforms like Twitch and holding a controller in front of the screen to make it look like gaming. While that exception worked for those fights, it won’t work again.

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JULY 19: (L-R) Deiveson Figueiredo of Brazil secures a rear choke submission against Joseph Benavidez in their UFC flyweight championship bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 19, 2020 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The reality is that many people rely on illegal streams for their UFC fix. While there is a strong argument questioning why this provision is in this bill, there isn’t a strong argument questioning this.

UFC and ESPN take hits to their bottom dollar due to illegal streaming. It is technically stealing content and is being treated as such.

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However, treating it like a serious felony may create more issues than solve them. There are always people willing to find workarounds. But, a lot of people are definitely going to lose access to UFC content for a while. The harsh penalty is meant to serve as a deterrent. Only time will tell how effective it is.

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Ishaan Bhattacharya

1510 articles

Ishaan Bhattacharya is an NBA, NCAA Basketball, and Combat Sports writer at EssentiallySports. Currently, Ishaan is pursuing a Post Graduate Degree in Journalism from Xavier's Institute of Communication. Previously, Ishaan has written for The Indian Express, The Quint, Sportskeeda, and WrestleClub.

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