Earlier this week the UFC released a press release addressing legal steps they are taking to crack down on illegal streaming of their pay per view product.
The UFC states that “Lonstein Law Office has successfully prosecuted hundreds of claims for the UFC organization for sites illegally streaming content and individual users since 2007.“. It is unclear from the press release whether any of these successful prosecutions involve contested cases or whether these all relate to default judgments where the Defendants failed to respond to the charges against them.
Following one case which received press this week (Zuffa v. Pryce) it’s been reported that “All in all streaming two Pay-Per-View events cost (Mr. Pryce) $11,948.70.”. Mr. Pryce was sued for illegally intercepting or receiving cable pursuant to the Communications Act. He failed to respond to the charges which resulted in default judgement. In law this “constitutes an admission of all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint.” The Court went on to award damages of $1,000 per pay per view plus enhanced damages, attorney’s fees and costs. This all results in a scary sound bite that illegal streaming can cost you over $11,000.
Iain Kidd of BloodyElbow conducted some commendable reporting digging into the issue further. He highlights a 2012 Nevada Judgement (Zuffa v. Justin.TV) where Zuffa sued under the same statue. The Defendant disputed the charges and successfully struck many of the allegations with District Judge Robert Hunt noting that
In essence, Zuffa alleges that Justin.tv’s users copied Zuffa’s UFC event and then rebroadcast the UFC event over the internet. This is not the type of conduct properly addressed by the Communications Act, but by copyright law (and, potentially, trademark law) because Justin.tv had no relationship with the original cable or satellite signal: by the allegations, Justin.tv did not receive or intercept any actual cable or satellite signal or broadcast. The Court finds no evidence in the statutory language, other cases, or legislative history that the Communications Act addresses this type of conduct or was meant to bolster or act as a separate type of copyright claim. The Court refuses to extend the law in this manner. Thus, the Court dismisses Zuffa’s eleventh and twelfth claims.
Although this case dealt with an intermediary and not an end individual user the Court’s findings throw some cold water on the headlines which only followed the Pryce case.
It is unclear if any of the “successfully prosecuted hundreds of claims for the UFC ” involve contested cases or if all of them are mere admissions obtained through default judgement. To clarify I reached out to the Lonstein Law Office requesting further insight into this. Below is an excerpt of my request:
As you are likely aware Zuffa has recently issued a press release stating “Lonstein Law Office has successfully prosecuted hundreds of claims for the UFC organization for sites illegally streaming content and individual users since 2007. “
I write to inquire if there are any publicly available reasons for judgment documenting these successful prosecutions. I would like to highlight some of the jurisprudence on my blog and would appreciate if you can share any judgements for this purpose. Also, have all these successful prosecutions involved default judgements or are there any contested cases that have gone to trial that can be highlighted?
At this stage the Lonstein Law Office has not responded but if / when they do I will be happy to shed further light on the issue of end user liability for illegal streaming of Zuffa’s Pay Per View products.