Commercial Piracy of UFC 163 Leads to $6,000 Damage Award

Adding to this site’s archived case summaries of combat sports piracy judgements, reasons were released last week by the US District Court, E.D. New York, awarding damages of $6,000 for the commercial piracy of UFC 163.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Maupin) the Defendants displayed UFC 163 in a commercial establishment without purchasing a licence to do so from the Plaintiff.   The cost would have been $900.  Instead the Defendant purchased a Roku Streaming Device and streamed the program which he accessed from the UFC’s website at a cost of $59.99.  The UFC’s website only licensed personal use of the program.

The Plaintiff sued and requested $18,100 in damages.  The court granted judgement in the Plaintiff’s favour but assessed damages at $6,000.  In finding this quantum appropriate District Judge Arthur Spatt provided the following reasons:

If statutory damages were assessed at the rate of $59.99 per patron as some courts have done, this would result in an award of $419.93. The Defendants avoided paying a $900 commercial licensing fee. While this was not a particularly egregious case, damages should deter future would-be infringers by letting them know that they should pay the licensing fee, and that failing to do so is costly.

In the Court’s discretion, the Court awards a flat amount of $1500 to the Plaintiffs for the Defendants’ violations of the Communications Act, and $1500 for the Copyright Act violations.

In addition, the Court finds that the Defendants’ violations were willful. Maupin purposefully evaded the $900 commercial licensing fee that he would have had to pay if he had purchased the Program on Pay-Per-View. Instead, he paid a mere $59.99 by accessing UFC.tv on the Roku. Both the website and the streaming device notified users that the content and the streaming service were not available for commercial use. In that way, Maupin recklessly disregarded the Plaintiffs’ rights or were willfully blind to them. Island Software & Computer Serv., 413 F.3d at 263.

The Defendants also advertised the Program on their Facebook page. While there is no evidence other than previous advertisements that the Defendants have repeatedly violated the statutes, or that they charged a cover, the Court finds that the Defendants’ violation of the statutes was willful. See Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 126-27, 105 S. Ct. 613, 83 L. Ed. 2d 523 (1985)(defining willfulness defined as “disregard for the governing statute and an indifference for its requirements”); see also Lalaleo, 429 F. Supp. 2d at 515 (stating that willfulness “is established by the fact that an event is broadcast, without authorization, through a defendant’s cable box” (citing Googies, 77 F. Supp. 2d at 490)).

Therefore, as the Defendants’ violations were willful, the Court doubles the damages under each statute. See Ortiz, 2003 WL 1960211, at *3 (“Furthermore, because Ortiz’s violation appears to have been willful, I recommend that the award be doubled. . . .” (citing Entm’t by J&J Inc. v. Nina’s Rest. & Catering, No. 01 CIV.5483 KMW RLE, 2002 WL 1000286, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. May 9, 2002))).

Accordingly, the Court awards the Plaintiffs $6000 in damages. The Defendants are liable jointly and severally.

 

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