Internet Viewing of UFC PPV Sidetracks Piracy Prosecution

Adding to this site’s archived posts addressing UFC Pay Per View piracy, reasons for judgement were released this month by US District Court, WD Louisiana, Shreveport Division, noting that the UFC’s Commercial PPV distributor may not have the right to sue where an establishment purchases and displays the residential version of the program.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Triple JJJ Travel Plaza, Inc) the Defendants operated a nightclub.  They purchased a licence directly from the UFC Website and registered their Roku as the device to stream a UFC Pay Per View program.

The price-tag for the residential program was $44.99 whereas a commercial licence, purchased from the plaintiff, would have cost $950.

The Plaintiff sued alleging Satellite and/or Cable Piracy which are the usual claims made in these prosecutions as the Federal Statutes creating civil liability for these offences call for steep statutory damages. The Plaintiff applied for summary judgement but the Court denied the application noting Joe Hand Promotions may not even have standing to sue in these circumstances and perhaps the UFC /Zuffa themselves are the aggrieved party.

In denying the application Magistrate Judge Mark Hornsby provided the following reasons:

The summary judgment evidence shows that Defendants purchased directly from Zuffa the right to receive the fight for $44.99. In showing the fight to the customers of their nightclub, Defendants violated the terms of use as set forth on the UFC (Zuffa) website, as well as the Roku terms and conditions, limiting use of the fight for residential purposes only. Other state or federal laws may also have been violated. The difficulty for the court, at least on the summary judgment record alone, is that Plaintiff may not be the proper party to assert claims against Defendants. Plaintiff’s distributorship makes a clear distinction between the exclusive right given to Plaintiff (distribution of the fight on commercial closed circuit television) and the right retained by Zuffa (the right to show the fight to residences via the internet). In other words, Defendants used the internet and their Roku device to violate someone’s rights by publically displaying the fight in a commercial establishment after having purchased only a residential license. That much is clear. But it is not clear that Plaintiff is the proper party to assert that violation. And it is far from clear that Defendants’ violations were willful.

Based on this record, the best exercise of this court’s discretion is to deny the motion for summary judgment and proceed to a trial where all of these issues can be fleshed out in full. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment (Doc. 25) is denied.

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