Zuffa Uses Copyright Act To Increase Damages Against PPV Piracy

Normally when UFC Pay Per View programs are commercially pirated lawsuits are brought by the UFC’s commercial distributor and damages are sought for statutory harm for satellite or cable theft.

In an interesting twist to this norm, recent reasons for judgement were released involving a prosecution by Zuffa as the Plaintiff also seeking damages for violation of the Copyright Act.

In the recent case (Zuffa, LLC v. Malik) the Defendant broadcast UFC 205 in a commercial establishment without paying the appropriate commercial sub-licensing fees to the Plaintiff.  The cost would have been $2,250.  Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan deemed that statutory damages in this amount were appropriate and a further $10,000 in enhanced statutory damages were warranted to punish the intentional piracy of the program.

Zuffa went on to ask for further damages pursuant to the Copyright Act.  The Court was persuaded by this requested assessing a further $6,000 in damages finding that airing a UFC PPV program at a commercial venue violates Zuffa’s copyright over the work.  In reaching this conclusion Judge Buchanan provided the following reasons:

Here, Plaintiff owns the UFC Broadcast and licenses the Broadcast for exhibition by others….Furthermore, Fuzion exhibited the UFC Broadcast at its establishment despite not having a license or permission to do so… Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 106(5), a copyright holder has the exclusive right to display the copyrighted work publicly. Therefore, Plaintiff has shown ownership and the violation of an exclusive right, and thus Plaintiff has established all of the elements necessary for a copyright infringement claim against Fuzion.

Plaintiff would have received $2,250.00 if Defendants had properly bought a license to exhibit the UFC Broadcast. (Hand Aff. ¶ 6.) Therefore, Plaintiff’s request of $15,000.00 in total statutory damages constitutes slightly more than six and a half times the amount of the unpaid licensing fee. This amount of damages would be more disproportionate than larger, recent awards for similar instances of copyright infringement in this District. See, e.g., Broad. Music, Inc. v. Eatnout, LLC, No. 2:15cv254, 2015 WL 12803458, at *3 (E.D. Va. Dec. 29, 2015) (awarding statutory damages equal to slightly less than four and half times the licensing fee). Therefore, the undersigned finds that an award of $6,000.00′ is appropriate as statutory damages in this case, because it is between two and three times the amount of the unpaid licensing fee.

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