Court Declines High Damage Award Following UFC Pay Per View Piracy

In the latest decision addressing damages for piracy of Pay Per View broadcasts, reasons for judgement were released last week by the US District Court, E.D. North Carolina, assessing damages for piracy of UFC 116 by a private club.

In last week’s case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Johnson) the Defendant operated a private club which broadcast UFC 116 without purchasing the licencing fee from the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff sued alleging satellite signal piracy.  The Defendant failed to respond resulting in default judgement against the Defendant club.

The Plaintiff sought $60,000 in damages but the Court found this amount excessive and awarded damages slightly above the statutory minimum.  In assessing damages at $1,500 District Judge Terrence Boyle reasoned as follows:

As in previous cases, the Court believes that awarding a flat rate of damages, linked to the maximum occupancy of the establishment and the egregiousness of the violation, is most consistent with the aims of the statute and with the quantum of harm actually suffered by Joe Hand. Section 605 provides that when a court awards statutory damages, it should fasion a damages award that is “just.”§ 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II). Although these calculations are speculative, “some speculation with respect to damages is permissible where, as here, a defendant’s default has prevented damages from being computed with greater certainty.” Kingvision Pay-Per-View, Ltd v. Arnoat, No. 06 Civ. 4811, 2007 WL 2076632, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. July 13, 2007).

Joe Hand calculates rates for its contracts based on a maximum occupancy. [DE 12-2]. The rate card attached to plaintiff’s Motion describes the prices charged for a lawful sublicensing agreement, which vary based on the capacity of the entity broadcasting the Program. According to the rate card and attached affidavit, the Club would have paid $900 to broadcast the Program lawfully. [DE 12-3, 12-2]. Absent any indication of aggravating factors, such as repeat violations or substantial monetary gains, this Court finds that a damage award of the statutory maximum would be excessive and out of line with awards in similar cases.

As to enhancement, there is no question that the Club intercepted and broadcasted the Program willfully and for commercial advantage. Joe Hand alleges that the Program was encrypted and made available only to its paying customers, therefore it is unlikely that defendants accidentally received the Program. In light of the circumstances and the deterrence goal of§ 605, the Court awards statutory damages of $1,000.00. The Court multiplies the statutory damages by a willfulness factor of 1.5, for a total damages award of $1,500.00…

Based on the foregoing, plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment is GRANTED. [DE 11]. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to enter a judgment against defendants in the amount of $1,500.00. In addition, attorneys’ fees are awarded to plaintiff Joe Hand in the amount of $1000.00. Costs are awarded to plaintiff Joe Hand in the amount of $475.00.

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