Television Signal Piracy Defense
TELEVISION SIGNAL PIRACY DEFENSE
Our Television Signal Piracy practice assists businesses and owners who have been sued for allegedly committing television signal piracy. These suits typically arise when a business or commercial establishment, such as a bar, lounge, nightclub or restaurant, broadcasts a pay-per-view television program - typically a boxing match or other sporting event - without purchasing the broadcast rights from the license holder.
demand letter & Initiation of lawsuit
It is to your benefit to retain counsel and respond accordingly if you have received a letter expressing an intent to bring a lawsuit against you (a "demand letter"), or you have been served with a summons and complaint for alleged television signal piracy or for showing a pay-per-view or similar program without the proper license. Many businesses ignore these letters and the impending federal lawsuit under the mistaken belief(s) that: (1) they are insulated from judgment because they have paid their cable service provider for the program; (2) individual owners are not personally liable for the transgressions of their business; (3) that the lawsuit is not real or will simply "go away", or (4) they believe that they cannot afford an attorney. However, ignoring a demand letter or a lawsuit alleging Television signal piracy is a mistake. This strategy will likely result in a default judgment against you, and may foreclose your ability to assert important rights and defenses, or the opportunity to negotiate a fair settlement.
Importantly, only an attorney may represent the interest of a corporation in a lawsuit. This means, that while a business owner can represent him or her self in a lawsuit, he or she may not represent his or her business if it is a corporation (Inc., Corp.) or Limited Liability Company (LLC).
Licensing pay-per-view events
Businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, should be extremely cautious if their cable service provider allows them to pay the residential rate for a pay-per-view program. Often, the cable service provider is not the license holder. While it is difficult to obtain information about the identity of the true license holder, a business must acquire a public viewing license from the appropriate license holder before it shows a pay-per-view program to the public or its patrons. Typically, licensing prices for businesses are determined by a combination of the business' fire code limit (see certificate of occupancy) and its location. For example, it was reported that J&J Productions, the supposed license holder for the May 2015 Mayweather vs. Pacquiao boxing event in the New York area, quoted prices of $6,500 for a business with a 200-person fire code limit, and $15,500 for a business with a 500-person fire code limit, to broadcast the boxing match.
intent to commit television signal piracy
Unfortunately, whether a business, its owner or its agent intended to commit television signal piracy is immaterial. A business may be liable for television signal piracy once it has shown a program in its commercial establishment without securing the proper license.
The plaintiff, or license holder, typically has compelling evidence against the defendant, or business, in a television signal piracy lawsuit. This may include: flyers handed out to patrons advertising the event; the business' website, or reviews or comments posted on Yelp, Facebook, or other websites stating that the fight will be shown or was shown at the establishment. However, the most compelling evidence, usually comes in the form of video footage taken by private investigators documenting the pay-per-view program actually being shown at the establishment. Nonetheless, this evidence does not foreclose a business' ability to obtain a fair settlement or procure a favorable disposition in the lawsuit.
license holder evidence of television signal piracy
damages / liability for television signal piracy
In a lawsuit alleging television signal piracy, plaintiffs typically seek much more in damages than it would have otherwise cost the business to license the program(s) through the license holder. Indeed, the damages requested for television signal piracy can be in excess of $100,000. Under 47 U.S.C. § 605, one of the statutes under which a lawsuit alleging television signal piracy may be brought, a business may also be fined up to $500,000.
possible defenses to television signal piracy
Businesses and persons who are facing a television signal piracy lawsuit do have some remedies available to them. It is imperative that defendants (businesses and business owners who are sued) appear and answer any complaint filed against them. As stated above, only an attorney will be able to appear on behalf of, and represent a business, if it is a corporation or limited liability company. In appearing, defendants may be able to argue (even where defendants did in fact broadcast the fight without permission from the license holder) that the plaintiff seeks an excessive award, and that the court should consider the particular circumstances, or certain factors with regard to the actual damage suffered by the plaintiff. Such factors may include: (1) whether defendant has repeated violations, (2) the size of the business, (3) the defendant's intent to profit, (4) defendant's actual profit, or (5) the number of patrons who viewed the program at defendants' establishment. Additionally, plaintiffs may have little evidence to support the allegations in their complaint, in which case affidavits of the workers and patrons at the restaurant can be used to counter the claims of the plaintiff.