Adding to this site’s archived posts addressing combat sports piracy, reasons for judgement were released recently by the US District Court W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division, awarding $2,200 in damages for the commercial piracy of UFC 165
In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Dick) the Defendants displayed UFC 165 in a bar without paying the commercial sub-licensing fees to the Plaintiff. The cost would have been approximately $1,100. The Plaintiff obtained default judgement. The Court found appropriate damages would be double the cost of the licence plus legal fees. In finding this to be a sensible assessment of damages Senior District Judge Thomas Russell provided the following reasons:
Unsurprisingly, there are many who wish to exhibit popular sports programming but remain unwilling to pay for the privilege. [Id., ¶ 4.] To make sure those businesses pay their fair share, Joe Hand Promotions dispatches investigators to local bars and restaurants on the nights of major showings, including the broadcast of the Ultimate Fighting Championship 165: Jon Jones v. Alexander Gustafsson, to catch “signal pirates” in the act. [Id., ¶¶ 5-6.]
Brandy Marie Dick is a managing member of The Neon Saddle LLC, which owns and operates The Neon Saddle, a bar located in Paducah, Kentucky. [R. 1 at 2, ¶¶ 7-8 (Complaint).] An investigator for Joe Hand Promotions, Shawna M. Spiller, visited The Neon Saddle on the night of September 21. [R. 11-4 at 1-2 (Spiller’s Affidavit).] Spiller estimated the capacity of The Neon Saddle to be around ninety people. [Id. at 2.] Inside the establishment, Spiller observed one of two televisions exhibiting the Ultimate Fighting Championship 165: Jon Jones v. Alexander Gustafsson. [Id. at 1.] The Neon Saddle, however, had not entered into a sublicensing agreement with Joe Hand Promotions to exhibit that program. [R. 11-2 at 3, ¶ 8.] Had Dick and The Neon Saddle paid for the right to exhibit that program, the cost would have been $1,100.00. [R. 11-3 at 1 (Rates).]
From the affidavit of Joe Hand, Jr., the President of Joe Hand Promotions, the Court is satisfied that the program was not “mistakenly, innocently, or accidentally intercepted.” [R. 11-2 at 3-4, ¶ 9; see also id. at 5, ¶ 13.] It seems apparent that the interception was for private financial gain too. [Id. at 5-6, ¶ 15.] Based on Joe Hand Promotions’ pricing structure, Dick and The Neon Saddle LLC ought to have paid Joe Hand Promotions around $1,100.00 for a sublicense to broadcast the program. [Id. at 3, ¶ 7; R. 11-3 at 1; R. 11-4 at 2.] Instead, Joe Hand Promotions spent $1572.50 to prosecute this action. [R. 11-1 at 1 (Riley’s Affidavit).]
Having carefully reviewed the record, the Court finds statutory damages in the amount of $2,200.00 to be appropriate and within the typical range awarded in this District. See Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Hernandez, No. 3:14-CV-86-CRS, 2016 WL 502058, at *4 (W.D. Ky. Feb. 8, 2016) (awarding $1,000 for non-willful violation); Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Young, No. 5:09-CV-157, 2010 WL 3341449, at *3-4 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 24, 2010) (awarding $4,800 for non-willful violation); Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Williams, No. 3:07-CV-406-JDM, 2010 WL 341513, at *2-3 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 22, 2010) (awarding $1,000 for non-willful violation). An award of $1,572.50 to cover Joe Hand Promotions’ costs and attorney’s fees is reasonable too. See 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(2)(C). Therefore, the Court will enter judgment against Dick and The Neon Saddle LLC in the amount of $3,772.50.