$20,000 in Damages Ordered for Piracy of Cotto v. Alvarez

Adding to this site’s archived case summaries of combat sports piracy judgements, reasons were released last week by the US District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division, assessing damages of $20,000 for the commercial piracy of Cotto v. Alvarez.

In the recent case (Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Chavez) the Defendant displayed the pay per view boxing program in a commercial establishment without paying the commercial sub licencing fee.  The cost would have been $4,200.  In finding total damages of $20,000 were appropriate in these circumstances District Judge Ann Aiken provided the following reasons:

Following the traditional approach, the Court considers the losses and profits resulting from defendants’ unlawful interception. In this case, it would be impossible to calculate the full extent of the profits obtained by defendants; however, plaintiff indicates that defendants’ cost to legally license the Program would have been $4,200. Pl.’s Mem. in Supp. of Default J. at 13. The Court shall base the award of statutory damages off of the cost of the licensing fee had the defendants legally purchased the Program. The Court finds that the circumstances of this case justify awarding plaintiffs request of damages in the amount of $5,000 against each defendant, for a total of $10,000.

In determining whether the interception was committed willfully, courts typically consider the following factors with respect to enhanced damages: “repeated violations over an extended period of time; substantial monetary gains; significant actual damages to plaintiff; defendants’ advertising for the intended broadcast of the event; defendants charging a cover charge; or charging premiums for food and drink.” Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Gonzalez, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14763, *12-13 (E.D. Cal. 2015).

Here, plaintiff provides no evidence in the record of prior violations, significant earnings by defendants or a cover charge fee. Nevertheless, plaintiff establishes that defendants’ unlawful act of intercepting the Program caused the plaintiff significant damages. Pl.’s Mem. in Supp. of Default J. at 13. Plaintiff provides evidence that defendants advertised the Program at their location. Pl.’s Aff. Ex. B at 13. Moreover, plaintiff claims that defendants increased food and drink prices, and thus, an inference can be drawn that defendants intended to increase business and entice a larger crowd. Pl.’s Comp. ¶ 14.

Taking these factors into consideration, defendants willfully took an affirmative action to illegally intercept plaintiffs Program, and plaintiff is entitled to receive enhanced damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii). However, I see no reason justifying plaintiffs request of enhanced damages in the total amount of $20,000. The Court finds an award of damages in the total amount of $10,000 adequate to deter defendants and others from committing similar acts in the future. Accordingly, the Court awards enhanced statutory damages in the amount of $5,000 against each defendant, for a total of $10,000, in addition to the $10,000 awarded under section 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II).

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