Minimum Statutory Damages Awarded Following Piracy of UFC 159

Adding to this site’s archived caselaw of Pay Per View piracy decisions, reasons for judgement were released this week by the US District Court, N.D. California, assessing damages for such a claim.

In this week’s case (Joe Hand Promotions, INC v. Tamayo) the Defendant operated a Crossfit gym.  He showed UFC 159 at his facility without paying for the commercial exhibition licencing rights for the event.  The Plaintiff sued seeking significant statutory damages.  The Defendant failed to respond and default judgement was awarded.  Despite this, the Court found that only minimal statutory damages were appropriate as the event was little more than a gathering of friends with little commercial advantage to the Defendant.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:

Plaintiff has produced sufficient evidence to prove that Defendant violated section 553, absent any response from Defendant. See Compl. at 4; Affiant Decl. at 1. However, the statutory maximum in damages as sought by Plaintiff, Compl. at 9, is inappropriate. This Court employed the following legal standard in Coyne:

Under section 553(c)(3)(A)(ii), the “party aggrieved may recover an award or statutory damages for all violations involved in the action, in a sum of not less than $250 or more than $10,000 as the court considers just.” The court of appeals has not set forth specific factors to use in determining the appropriate amount of such enhancements. See J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Concepcion, No. 10-5092, 2011 WL 2220101, at *4 (N.D. Cal. June 7, 2011). “District courts have thus considered different factors to determine culpability and to achieve proper compensation and deterrence. These include: use of cover charge, increase in food price during programming, presence of advertisement, number of patrons, number of televisions used, and impact of offender’s conduct on the claimant. Repeated violations may also justify enhanced damages.” Id.

857 F. Supp.2d at 917. Here, Plaintiff’s Investigator states that at most thirty-one people (including three children under age ten) were present during exhibition of the Program, there was no advertisement (there wasn’t even a business name on the front of the establishment), there was one “makeshift screen with a projector,” no cover charge, nothing for sale, “everyone seemed to bring their own food and drinks,” and “[i]t was very much like a gathering of friends.” Affiant Decl. This was not the unlawful commercial gain that the statute seeks to prevent. As to the impact of offender’s conduct on the claimant, Plaintiff is a national corporation that apparently has the resources to be highly litigious (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. has appeared as plaintiff in this district over 40 times). It is unlikely that Defendant’s conduct meaningfully impacted Plaintiff. The Court awards the minimum statutory damages, as it did in Coyne. See Coyne, 857 F. Supp.2d at 918. Thus, the Court awards Plaintiff $250 in damages for the violation of section 553. See 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(3)(A)(ii).

In addition to the above the Court awarded $750 in damages for conversion for a total award of $1,000.

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