UFC 157 Piracy Leads to $2,900 Damages Assessment

The usual fact pattern for UFC Pay Per View piracy is as follows

  • A bar pirates the program
  • A private investigator gets wind and documents the piracy
  • Joe Hand Promotions (the commercial distributor for UFC PPV’s) sues and requests substantial damages
  • Joe Hand wins but is awarded a fraction of the damages they wished

Adding to this site’s archived posts addressing combat sports piracy, reasons for judgement were released recently by the US District Court, W. D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division, following this fact pattern.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc.  v. Behind the Fence LLC) the Defendant displayed UFC 157 in a commercial establishment without purchasing the rights to do so from the Plaintiff.  The Plaintiff obtained default judgement and requested “substantial” statutory damages.

The court declined to do so and instead awarded damages at the cost of the commercial sublicence, plus the estimated profits from the bar and then doubled this amount for deterrent purposes leading to a total of $2,900 in damages.  In reaching this figure Magistrate Judge Carol Whitehurst provided the following reasons:

As stated by Plaintiff, one purpose of statutory damages in cases analogous to this one is to deter the type of conduct alleged against the defendants. By requiring the defendant to pay only the licensing fee it should have previously paid, the defendant would have no motivation to refrain from continuing the unauthorized conduct. In addition, this conduct harms Plaintiff’s business and decreases profits. Considering the need to deter future similar conduct and that the commercial sublicense fee alone in this case would have been $950,[4] the Court finds that the foregone sublicense fee plus $500 for Behind The Fence’s estimated profits, or $1450, is a just amount under the circumstances.

In addition, Plaintiff has requested enhanced damages for willful violation. 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(3)(B). Plaintiff cannot provide affirmative evidence that the efendant willfully violated § 553; however, Joe Hand Jr.’s affidavit states that “our programming is not and cannot be mistakenly, innocently, or accidentally intercepted.” An award of enhanced damages rests within the court’s discretion. Id. Considering Plaintiff’s evidence, including that only one of the televisions in the establishment showed the Fight Program; the small size of the crowd (13-15 patrons) viewing the Fight Program; no cover charge; and apparently no prior advertisements; as well as the lack of evidence that the LLC was a repeat offender, the Court finds that an additional $1,450 in enhanced damages is sufficient.

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