UFC Pay Per View Piracy Lawsuit Against Martial Arts Gym Dismissed

Important reasons for judgement were released earlier this month limiting the scope of the laws most often used to prosecute commercial Pay Per View piracy.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc v. Spain) the Defendant, who operated a martial arts gym, purchased UFC  169 and displayed the program “at a social gathering that was taking place at the establishment outside the normal operating hours.” The Defendant paid the residential fee and  displayed the program via the Internet using an Xbox device.

The Plaintiff sued arguing that as a commercial establishment the Defendant needed to pay the commercial sub licencing fee.  The lawsuit was struck down with the Court noting that the Defendant lawfully purchased the program but more importantly noting the legislation the Plaintiff relies on cannot be relied on in a piracy prosecution where the program is obtained via internet stream.  In dismissing the lawsuit Senior District Judge Stephen McNamee provided the following reasons:

The Court finds that Sections 605 and 553 are inapplicable in this case. These statutes, originally enacted in 1934, were intended to prevent pirate interception of radio, satellite, and cable signals. Here, Defendants purchased the Program from UFC.tv, an authorized distributor of the Program. Even if sections 605 and 553 did extend to Internet streaming, there is no evidence of unauthorized signal reception or interception, nor is there evidence that the Program was used for an unauthorized purpose despite being shown at a non-residential venue. Plaintiff does not meet its burden of proof under either statute. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24.

According to the contract between UFC and Defendant, Defendant is the “exclusive distributor of commercial closed circuit television of the Events” but does not have the exclusive rights to show the Program over the Internet.[5] (Doc. 32-4 at 10.) UFC retains the rights to show this and other similar programs “via any and all means and modes of pay-per-view television, Internet, wireless, broadband, and all other means or modes . . .” (Id. at 11.) If anything, issues of breach of contract and licensing may exist, but those are matters beyond the scope of this lawsuit. Therefore, because the Court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact and the Internet defense is valid, Defendants are entitled to judgement as a matter of law.

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