Last week, Showtime and HBO went to court to try to preemptively stop people from streaming the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.
The companies won a temporary restraining order prohibiting the operators of two Web sites -- boxinghd.net and sportship.org -- from Webcasting streams of the event, which cost $99.95 on pay-per-view. Unfortunately for Showtime, HBO and the fight promoters, operators of the Web sites named in the court papers weren't the only ones who could stream the match.
As is well known by now, streams of the fight were widely available in real-time on Meerkat and Twitter's Periscope. Many of those streams appeared to come from people who simply captured the video footage from a TV or computer screen, but at least one stream reportedly originated from the Las Vegas arena that hosted the event.
Twitter reportedly received 66 takedown requests during the fight. The company removed 30 of them, while the other 36 had gone dark by the time the company took action, according to The Los Angeles Times.
But that wasn't enough to prevent people from successfully viewing the fight for free.
“Often, a stream would be successfully active for one round, only to immediately go black,” writes Mashable's Christina Warren, who reported on her experience watching the match via Periscope. “This wasn't really a problem, however, because like a hydra, we could just go to another Periscope stream somewhere else in the world to watch the fight on someone else's TV.”
The easy availability of these streams obviously isn't going to sit well with the entertainment industry. (Even before this weekend, some in Hollywood were upset with Twitter for failing to disable tweets about emails that were hacked from Sony.)
Earlier today, CNN ran a piece saying that the fight turned Periscope into “the new Napster.”
That statement probably isn't fair, given that live-streaming apps like Periscope are hardly synonymous with free sporting events. And, unlike the case with music, the streams of the fight weren't a perfect substitute for watching it on TV -- especially because people had to continuously seek out new streams in response to takedowns.
“Watching a video stream of someone recording their TV doesn't replicate the experience or quality of watching a fight on TV any more than Handycam movie bootlegs replicate the theatrical experience,” Warren writes on Mashable.
It's also worth pointing out that this isn't the first time live-streaming services have been compared to Napster. Back in 2009, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing about piracy of live sporting events on sites that enable real-time streaming. At the time, the focus was on one of the earliest live-streaming services, Justin.tv, which later rebranded as Twitch.
At that hearing, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) specifically asked former Justin.tv CEO Michael Seibel how the company distinguished itself from Napster.
Seibel said that the company complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires Web services providers to take down infringing material in response to requests by the copyright holder.
Two years later, Zuffa's Ultimate Fighting Championships sued Justin.tv for copyright infringement. UFC and Justin.tv reached a confidential settlement in 2012.