Two Latest UFC Piracy Awards Total $7,200 and $60,000

Posted: March 2, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Two separate sets of reasons were released last month awarding damages for commercial piracy of UFC Pay Per View Broadcasts.

In the first case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. RLPR Management LLP) the Defendant broadcast UFC 101 at a commercial establishment without paying the sub licencing fee.  The evidence showed the program being televised on eleven television screens inside the Defendants’ establishment and that between 53-57 patrons were present.

The Plaintiff obtained default judgement and sought substantial damages although a far more modest award than requested was made.  In finding $7,200 in damages were appropriate District Judge Elizabeth Foote provided the following reasons:

The conduct of the Defendants in this case has harmed Joe Hand’s business and decreased its profits. Considering the need to deter future unlawful conduct, the Court awards Joe Hand statutory damages in the amount of $2,400, which it finds to be just under the circumstances and comparable to awards in similar cases…

The evidence on the record shows that Defendants broadcast the program on eleven screens and had between fifty-three to fifty-seven people in the establishment during the broadcast.[27] There is no evidence that the Defendants charged a cover charge for entry into the establishment, charged a premium for food or drinks, advertised their broadcast of the program, or are repeat offenders. Considering the evidence in the record, the willful nature of the violation at issue, and the need to deter violations of the law, the Court finds that enhanced damages are warranted in the amount of $4,800, which reflects twice the statutory damages and which is four times the estimated license fee for the establishment.

In the second case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Valdez) the Defendant broadcast UFC 115 without paying the commercial sub licencing fee.  Default judgement was obtained.  Magistrate Judge Renee Toliver recommended $60,000 in damages to be paid and District Judge Sam Lindsay agreed.  In finding maximum statutory damages of $10,000 were appropriate in addition to $50,000 in enhanced damages the Court reasoned as follows:

In Plaintiff’s Motion for Final Default Judgment, it asks the Court to award $10,000 in statutory damages pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II) and $50,000 in additional damages pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii) of the Federal Communications Act of 1934 (“the Act”). Doc. 30 at 15, 21, 25. Section 605 of the Act provides that an aggrieved party may not recover an award of statutory damages of more than $10,000 (for each violation of subsection (a) of section 605 of the Act). 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II). The amount of statutory damages requested by Plaintiff falls within the amount allowed by statute, and the Court finds that the amount of $10,000 in statutory damages is reasonable.

With regard to additional damages under subsection (C)(ii) of the Act, the conduct alleged in the Complaint amounts to “willful” conduct, thereby allowing Plaintiff to recover additional damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii). See Time Warner Cable v. Googies Luncheonette, Inc., 77 F. Supp. 2d 485, 490 (S.D.N.Y. 1999)(“There can be no doubt that the violations were willful and committed for purposes of commercial advantage and private gain. Signals do not descramble spontaneously, nor do television sets connect themselves to cable distribution systems.”). A court in its discretion may increase the amount of damages by an amount of not more than $100,000 for each violation of subsection (a). 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii). To deter pirating of cable and satellite broadcasts, courts have applied multipliers of three to eight times the statutory damages as additional damages. See Kingvision Pay-Per-View, Ltd. v. Scott E.’s Pub, Inc., 146 F. Supp. 2d 955, 960 (E.D. Wis. 2001)(discussing cases applying multipliers of three to eight times the statutory damages as additional damages in order to deter future violations); see also Cablevision Sys. Corp. v. Maxie’s N. Shore Deli Corp., No. CV-88-2834 (ASC), 1991 WL 58350, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. 1991) (awarding additional damages for willful violation under section 605 in the amount of five times the initial statutory damages award). Here, Defendants did not exhibit the Broadcast innocently; it was intentionally and knowingly done for financial gain. The multiplier of five times in this case is reasonable, considering the event was exhibited on ten televisions to as many as 66 patrons, Doc. 31-4 at 2, and the importance of deterring future violations. The Court determines that such damages are ascertainable from the Complaint and the record and recommends an award to Plaintiff of $50,000 as additional damages. Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to, and should be awarded a total amount of $60,000 in damages.

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