In the latest chapter of ongoing anti piracy litigation of UFC Pay Per View products, reasons for judgement were released this week by the US District Court, ED Missouri, Eastern Division, assessing damages in default proceedings following alleged piracy of UFC 128 by a commercial establishment.
In this week’s case (Joe Hand Promotions Inc. v. Game on Bar and Grill) the Plaintiff, who enjoyed commercial distribution rights to UFC 128, obtained default judgement agaisnt the Defendant with allegations that they unlawfully displayed the event without purchasing a commercial licence. Default judgement was obtained with a violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605 and 47 U.S.C. § 553.
Damages of $4,000 for each count were assessed in addition to $2,500 in attorney’s fees and $460 in costs.
It is noteworthy that the plaintiff was seeking damages of $170,000. In finding the above more modest figure being appropriate the Court provided the following reasons:
Plaintiff has requested the maximum statutory damages available under each statute and argues that an award of enhanced damages is appropriate here because Defendants acted willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage. Plaintiff further argues that awarding the statutory maximum will serve as a deterrent to similar action by other commercial establishments. Plaintiff does not allege, however, the other ground commonly cited in support of maximal damage award: that Defendant has repeatedly violated these statutes. See 47 U.S.C. §§ 553(c)(3)(B) & 605(e)(3)(C)(ii).
Although courts in this district have in some instances granted the maximum amount of enhanced statutory damages to aggrieved parties under §§ 605 and 553, more modest awards are generally found. Compare Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. TL Prods., LLC, Nos. 4:09CV503MLM, 4:09CV1633CAS, 2010 WL 2428031, at *2 (E.D. Mo. June 10, 2010) (finding “knowing violation” and awarding enhanced statutory damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605 of $100,000 and $50,000 under 47 U.S.C. § 553)with Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Thompson, No. 4:11CV1740CAS, 2013 WL 466278, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 7, 2013) (awarding $13,000 in statutory damages for a willful violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605); J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Sirkco, LLC, No. 4:12CV763CDP, 2013 WL 363355, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 30, 2013) (awarding $3,000 in statutory damages for a willful violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605); J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Diamond Kings, LLC, No. 4:12CV00764AGF, 2012 WL 5330983, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 29, 2012) (awarding $3,000 in statutory damages for a willful violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605); Home Box Office v. Carlim, Inc., 838 F. Supp. 432, 436 (E.D. Mo. 1993) (awarding a total of $3,000 in statutory damages, consisting of $2,000 pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(3)(A) & (c)(3)(B), and $1,000 pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II)).
Having considered the authorities Plaintiff presents and other applicable cases from this jurisdiction, and the fact that Plaintiff was required to hire auditors and investigators, the Court finds that Defendant acted willfully and that an award of $4,000 per violation under each of the statutes is an appropriate penalty and deterrent here. See, e.g., Sirkco, LLC, 2013 WL 363355, at *2 (awarding $3,000 in statutory damages).
Plaintiff also seeks attorney’s fees of $2,500, $460 in costs, and post-judgment interest. Both statutes authorize the recovery of attorney’s fees and costs and the Court finds the documentation Plaintiff submitted to support its requests for attorney’s fees and costs sufficient and the amount of requested fees and costs reasonable. See 47 U.S.C. §§ 605(e)(3)(B)(iii) and 553(c)(2)(C). In addition, Plaintiff is entitled to post-judgment interest at the rate set by federal law.