In the latest prosecutions involving the commercial piracy of UFC Pay Per View events two recent judgements were released awarding damages of $4,000 and $3,000 respectively.
In the first case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. McKissick) the Defendants displayed UFC 164 on one television at their bar. The commercial sub licencing fee was not paid and the Defendant advertised on their Facebook page that they would display the bout. The Plaintiff sought $25,000 in statutory damages but the Court found the demand excessive and awarded a total of $4,000 in damages. In reaching this figure District Judge Randa provided the following reasons:
The applicable rate for the fight was $1,100, and the defendants likely enjoyed an increase in food and beverage sales, especially since they advertised the fight. Moreover, Joe Hand represents to lawfully paying customers the locations of other authorized commercial establishments licensed to receive the programming. Thus, piracy causes damage to Joe Hand’s reputation and good will.
Joe Hand asks for $5,000 in statutory damages and $20,000 in enhanced damages. The Court agrees with the need for deterrence in this situation, but not to the extent that the defendant might be forced out of business, or at a minimum, take a severe financial hit that will undermine their otherwise legitimate business operation. Therefore, the Court will award $1,000 in statutory damages and $3,000 in enhanced damages. Joe Hand’s request to submit a separate fee affidavit is also granted.
In the second case, (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Ol’ River Hideaway LLC) the Defendants displayed UFC 171 in their bar after purchasing it from Dish Network but they paid the residential fee and not the more expensive $950 commercial sub licencing fee. The Court found this is no defence as the lawsuit involved a strict liability statute.
The Plaintiff sought statutory damages totaling $60,000 but the Court found this excessive awarding $3,000 instead. In finding this figure reasonable Senior District Judge Ezra reasoned as follows –
The Court finds that a statutory damage award of $3,000 is appropriate in this case. Here, Plaintiff could have charged $950 for a venue comparable to Defendants’ bar. (Dkt. # 11-1 at 29 (stating that Defendants’ bar has a capacity of approximately 100 people); Dkt. # 11-1 at 38 (noting a typical charge of $950 for a venue seating according to the Fire Code Occupancy of 0-100 people)). An additional $2,050 is reasonable to deter future violations…
On this record, the Court finds that a willful damage violation is not warranted under the circumstances of this case. There is no evidence that Defendants repeatedly violated the law over an extended period of time. Nor is there evidence that they received substantial monetary gain by receiving Plaintiff’s satellite programming without its authorization. The statutory damage amount of $3000 is sufficient to deter any future violation of § 605 by Defendants.