$8,200 in Damages Awarded After Piracy of UFC Events with Little Monetary Gain

Adding to this site’s archives of piracy awards for UFC Pay Per View lawsuits, reasons for judgement were recently published by the US District Court, D. Idaho, awarding $8,200 in damages against a defendant found liable after displaying 2 UFC events.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Hetemi) the Defendant displayed UFC 183 and 199 in a restaurant/nightclub without purchasing the commercial sub-licencing rights from the Plaintiff.  The cost would have been $1,100 and $998 respectively.

The Plaintiff sued and obtained default judgment.  The Plaintiff sought $50,000 in damages but the Court found this was excessive given that little monetary gain was involved.  Instead Magistrate Judge Candy Dale awarded $3,200 in statutory damages which reflected a crude estimate of $100 in profit for every patron present during the events.  The court awarded a further $5,000 in damages for the willful conduct noting that a penalty of $2,500 per infraction was adequate.  In reaching this figure the Court provided the following reasons:

Based upon these factors, the Court finds that a modest fine is appropriate in this case. Here, there were two repeated violations. However, based upon the number of patrons attracted, there does not appear to have been substantial unlawful monetary gains beyond nonpayment of the sublicense fee. The establishment is not large, and is located in a small town in Idaho. Although the broadcast of the Programs likely led to some unlawful monetary gain by Defendant, it is not likely enough that the financial gain on the two occasions would be considered “substantial.” Similarly, the amount of actual damages, equivalent to the two unpaid sublicense fees, would have been $1,100 for the sublicense fee to broadcast the UFC 183 Program, and $998.00 for the UFC 199 Program. Neither auditor contends Defendants charged a cover or a premium for food or drink that evening, although Defendants did advertise the Programs on its Facebook page. (Dkt. 15-6 at 5-14.) The Court acknowledges, however, that additional damages to Plaintiff such as lost revenue, devaluation of its product, and loss of goodwill, are tangible losses.

The Court recognizes the need to deter signal pirates in cases like this one. The Court also agrees with other courts that, “although the amount of damages should be an adequate deterrent, the violation is not so serious as to warrant putting the restaurant out of business.” Garden City Boxing Club, Inc. v. Polanco, No. 05 Civ. 3411, 2006 WL 305458, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2006) (awarding an additional $10,000 for a single violation against a small business).

Here, in the exercise of its discretion, the Court finds an award of an additional $5,000 ($2,500 for each of the two broadcasts) is appropriate, in light of all the circumstances considered and as explained above.

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