$15,000 In Damages Ordered After UFC 129 Piracy

In the latest case addressing damages for piracy of UFC Pay Per View programs by commercial establishments, reasons for judgement were released by the US District Court, E.D. Missouri, ordering a Defendant to pay $15,000 in damages.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Shepard) the Defendants displayed UFC 129 in their sports bar without purchasing the $900 commercial sub licence.  Instead the program was broadcast in the bar from a residential satellite account “registered to a second floor residential apartment above the Sports Bar”.   District Judge Stephen Limbaugh provided the following reasons in assessing $15,000 in damages:

On the date of the Program, without authorization, the Program was intercepted and/or received and broadcast in the Sports Bar. The Program was broadcast via a residential DISH Network satellite account registered to a second floor residential apartment above the Sports Bar to obtain the unauthorized signal. The transmission of the Program could not have been undertaken without specific wrongful actions to intercept, receive, and/or exhibit the telecast of the Program. In order to safeguard against the unauthorized interception or receipt of the Program, the interstate satellite transmission of the Program was electronically coded or scrambled and was not available to or intended for the use of the general public. If a commercial establishment was authorized by plaintiff to receive the respective Program, the establishment was provided with the electronic decoding equipment and the satellite coordinates necessary to receive the signal or the establishment’s cable or satellite provider would be notified to unscramble the reception, depending upon the establishment’s equipment and provider. Authorized commercial establishments which contracted with plaintiff were required to pay to plaintiff a sublicense fee to receive the Program. This sublicense fee is typically based on the capacity of the establishment. Here, the Sports Bar had an occupancy of fifty people. According to the rate card, the fee for a legal broadcast would have been $900.00.

On the night of the Program, plaintiff’s auditor observed the Program being telecast to approximately forty-two patrons at the Sports Bar on three large televisions. The exhibition of the Program was advertised and promoted on the Sport’s Bar’s Facebook page which was available online to the general public. A review of the Sports Bar’s Facebook page shows that Defendant Shepard personally authored posts to the Facebook page…

Here, plaintiff does not allege that Sports Bar is a repeat violator and does not allege substantial financial gain. The Court notes that the minimum amount of the actual damages is $900, the amount of the unpaid sublicense fee. “The Court recognizes, however, there are additional actual damages to plaintiff that are more difficult to calculate, such as the cost of auditing and the devaluation of its programing.” Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Thompson, 2013 WL 466278, at *3. Having considered the authorities presented and other applicable cases from this jurisdiction, along with the affidavit testimony and other evidence, the Court, in its discretion, will award $5,000 in statutory damages under § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II) and $10,000 in enhanced statutory damages under § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii).

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