$3,800 in Damages for UFC 165 Piracy

Reasons for judgement were published recently by the US District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division granting default judgement for the commercial piracy of UFC 165.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Moore) the Defendant operated a commercial establishment and aired UFC 165 without paying the commercial sub licencing fees to the Plaintiff.  The cost would have been $950. The Plaintiff paid for a private investigator to attend and noted between 7 and 11 patrons present during the airing of the event.

The Court found statutory damages for the cost of the program were appropriate and enhanced damages at triple that amount were warranted given that the piracy was intentional.  In assessing total damages at $3,800 District Judge Susan Hickey provided the following reasons:

The undisputed evidence in this case demonstrates that Moore violated 47 U.S.C. § 605. The cost to King of Wings Bar & Grill for the sublicensing agreement would have been $950.00. The Court finds that the amount Moore should have paid for a sublicensing agreement is the proper amount of statutory damages. See J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Brewster “2” Café, LLC, 2014 WL 4956501, at *5 (E.D. Ark. Oct. 2, 2014).

The facts also demonstrate that the violation was committed willfully and for the purposes of financial gain. The violation was willful because “intentional acts are required to pirate a closed-circuit broadcast; the unscrambled airwaves or cable transmission do not just happen.” J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Diaz De Leon, 2012 WL 79877, at *3 (W.D. Ark. Jan. 11, 2012) (quoting Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Cat’s Bar, Inc., 2009 WL 700125, at *3 (C.D. Ill. 2009)). Commercial advantage or financial gain can be reasonably inferred from the facts. Given that King of Wings Bar & Grill is a commercial establishment, it may be reasonably inferred that Moore’s actions in airing the Program were for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage by drawing customers into the business. See id.

Because the Court has found that the violations were willful, Plaintiff is entitled to enhanced damages. The purpose of these enhanced damages is to punish violations and simultaneously deter future piracy. Brewster “2” Café, LLC, 2014 WL 4956501 at *5. Moore would have no incentive to cease the violation if the penalty were merely the amount that he should have paid for a sublicensing agreement. See Entertainment by J & J, Inc. v. Al-Waha Enterprises, Inc., 219 F. Supp. 2d 769, 776 (S.D. Tex. 2002). In awarding enhanced damages, Courts generally award anywhere from three to six times the statutory damages award. Joe Hand Productions, Inc. v. Feil, 2013 WL 2936389 (D. Minn. June 14, 2013).

The Court finds that the appropriate amount of enhanced damages is three times the award of statutory damages, or $2,850.00. These damages are appropriate given that there is no evidence that King of Wings was filled to capacity, and Joe Hand has not shown that Moore has a history of showing pirated events. See Brewster “2” Café, LLC, 2014 WL 4956501 at *6. These damages are sufficient to deter future signal piracy, while not so harsh as to seriously impair the viability of Moore’s business.

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