UFC 201 Piracy Leads to $30,000 Damage Award

In the latest piracy prosecution involving a UFC Pay Per View broadcast reasons for judgement were published by the US District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division, assessing damages of $30,000.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Collective Minds, LLC) the Defendants displayed UFC 201 at a commercial establishment without paying the commercial sub licensing fees to the Plaintiff.  The cost would have been $2,100.

The Plaintiff obtained default judgement with statutory damages of $5,000 being awarded and further enhanced damages of $25,000.

In finding that a total of $30,000 plus legal costs was an appropriate award Senior District Judge Margaret Seymour provided the following reasons:

As explained above, it would have cost $2,100 for Defendants to purchase the rights to exhibit the Program at the Establishment. The court finds that an award totaling approximately three times the applicable license fee effectively promotes deterrence in this instance. Accordingly, the court finds that an award of $5,000 fairly approximates the actual harm to Plaintiff resulting from Defendants’ unauthorized exhibition of the Program.

Plaintiff also seeks enhanced damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii) because Defendants’ violation was committed willfully and for the purposes of commercial advantage or financial gain. ECF No. 10-1 at 11. Plaintiff requests $25,000. Id.Plaintiff explains that their primary source of revenue is the sublicense fee charged to authorized commercial establishments for the right to broadcast closed circuit sports and entertainment programming, such as the Program. ECF No. 10-1 at 8. Plaintiff argues that much of its revenue is lost due to unauthorized commercial exhibition of its programs because legitimate bars and restaurants cannot afford to compete with “pirate” bars and restaurants. See ECF No. 10-2 at 4. Plaintiff further asserts that authorized commercial establishments suffer financial loss from such illegal activities as well. ECF 10-1 at 10; ECF No. 10 at 4. As a result, Plaintiff contends, authorized commercial establishments are forced to either cease the legitimate purchase of programming from Plaintiff and other such rights holders, or begin to pirate programs like Defendants. Id.

The court agrees that an enhanced award is necessary to deter the willful piracy of Plaintiff’s programs. In light of the fact that the Defendants imposed a cover charge and advertised the Program on social media, the court finds that enhanced damages in the amount of $25,000 provides just and adequate deterrence for such willful violations. Accordingly, the court awards total damages in the amount of $30,000.

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