UFC 197 Piracy Leads to $12,600 Damage Assessment

Adding to this site’s archived case summaries of combat sports piracy judgements, reasons were released last week by the US District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division, assessing damages for the commercial piracy of UFC 197.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions Inc. v. The Sports Nut, LLC) the Defendant displayed UFC 197 in a commercial establishment without paying the commercial sub licencing fees.  The Plaintiff obtained default judgement and sought $35,000 in damages.  The court found this request disproportionate but went on to award statutory damages of $3,150 (being the cost of the sub licence for displaying the program) and a further $9,450 in enhanced damages to deter the Defendant.  In finding $12,600 in total damages being warranted District Judge Virginia Hopkins provided the following reasons:

In this case, the Court elects to award damages based on the license fee JHP would have received if Defendants had acquired the signal legally.[4] For that reason, the Court awards $3,150.00 in damages…

In its request for enhanced damages, JHP asks the Court “to assume this is was not an isolated violation.”(See Doc. 24-1 at 6). However, JHP neither pled nor provided any proof of other violations. And, while the Defendants may have obtained a monetary gain from showing the Event (see id.), they did not collect a cover charge. (Doc. 24-7 at 2). And, without a reference point to know how many people were usually at Whiskey Creek on an evening when the Event was not shown, the Court will not speculate that the 81 patrons[7] at Whiskey Creek on the date at issue came because of the Event or spent more money because of it. The Court acknowledges that the Defendants did advertise the Event on Facebook (Doc. 24-1 at 6; Doc. 24-4 at 2-3), and that JHP has explained the deleterious effects of this sort of piracy on its business. (Doc. 24-1 at 6-11). Moreover, the Court acknowledges that a purpose of enhanced damages is to deter future violations.

Having considered all these matters, the Court finds it appropriate to award enhanced damages of three times the licensing fee. Accordingly, the Court awards $9,450 in damages under § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii).

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