$110,000 Request for Damages Denied Following UFC Piracy, $1,800 Awarded

Reasons for judgement were released earlier this month by the US District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division, considering damages following the commercial piracy of UFC 163.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions Inc v. Beck) the Defendant operated a commercial establishment that displayed UFC 163 without purchasing the pay per view event by paying the commercial sub-licensing fee to the Plaintiff.  The establishment had a maximum occupancy of 250-300 people and the cost of the Pay Per View was $1,800 for a venue of that capacity.

The Plaintiff obtained default judgement and asked for maximum statutory damages of $10,000 and enhanced damages of $100,000.  The Court largely rejected this request finding there was insufficient evidence to award enhanced damages and a practical award of statutory damages was the actual cost of ordering the program as opposed to defaulting to the maximum amount allowed under law.

In reaching this conclusion District Judge Randal Hall provided the following reasons:

Plaintiff argues that Defendants’ conduct warrants the statutory maximum of $10,000 in damages. In support, Plaintiff cites district courts that have employed a multi-factor analysis to determine the appropriate statutory damages award. (Doc. 22-2 at 8 (citing, e.g., Universal Sports Networks, Inc. v. Jimenez, No. C-02-2768-SC, 2002 WL 31109707, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 18, 2002))). In fashioning a statutory damages award, these courts have considered many factors including whether the defendant is a repeat offender and the extent of the financial gain. E.g., Jimenez, 2002 WL 31109707, at *2. Plaintiff urges the Court to adopt this framework and to make deterrence a central factor in its analysis. (Doc. 22-2 at 8.)

But “other courts—particularly those within the Eleventh Circuit—have ordered defendants to pay, as statutory damages, the amount of the license fee that they would have been charged if they had actually been authorized to show the program.”Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Blanchard, No. 4:09-cv-100, 2010 WL 1838067, at *3 (S.D. Ga. May 3, 2010). The Court finds that the approach taken by district courts in the Eleventh Circuit is appropriate in this case.

According to Joe Hand, Jr., Plaintiff’s president, Plaintiff used a rate card to determine the licensing fee for the Program by reference to the licensed establishment’s maximum occupancy. (Doc. 22-2 Ex. 1.) Additionally, Edward McKnight, Plaintiff’s investigator, estimated that Surreal has a maximum capacity of 250-300 persons. (Doc. 22-2 at 16.) The rate card indicates that establishments with a maximum occupancy of 250-300 persons were charged $1,800 to show the Program. (Doc. 22-2, ¶ 8; Doc. 22-2, Ex. 1.) The Court, therefore, awards $1,800 in statutory damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II).

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