Joe Hand Promotions Inc., J & J Sports Production and G & G closed circuit cases – Satellite TV Piracy cases explained – [Unauthorized Commercial Exhibition of PPV programming such as Ultimate Fight Championships and Boxing Matches and other sports events].
Joe Hand Promotions (“JHP”) is in the television distribution industry. For many years they have been the exclusive distributor for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (“UFC”) fight shows offered on a pay-per-view basis. Normally, home users can logon and purchase the fights for about $40-60. However, commercial establishments (such as sports bars, restaurants, country clubs, casinos, athletic gyms and other commercial establishments must negotiate a higher fee based upon their possible head count (fire occupancy) and if they fail to obtain the required license, they cannot display the shows legally in their commercial venues. If they do, they can face PPV piracy lawsuits involving allegations of Federal Copyright infringement or other federal laws as noted below. We can help clients across the United States get these copyright cases settled, or if not, to help arbitrate, mediate or litigate the case in federal court. This blog highlights some of the ways PPV can be pirated, and some of the potential allegations that may arise in a court of law.
Who is Joe Hand Promotions?
According to their website:
“Since 2001, Joe Hand Promotions has been the exclusive commercial TV distributor for the UFC, which recently extended their agreement through 2015. In order to protect their customers’ investment, Joe Hand Promotions must pursue businesses committing pay-per-view piracy.”
Watch Attorney Steve explains violations of the Federal Communications Act
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How can Pay Per View programs be “pirated” via unlicensed broadcasts?
Here are some of the main ways:
- Misrepresenting your business as a residential account to avoid paying commercial licensing fees (ex. trying to avoid paying a $800 or so commercial licensing fee)
- Moving a residential receiver to a commercial location to steal
- Streaming from home to business via use of a wireless receiver (unlawful broadcast)
- Showing the event on a laptop in a commercial establishment such as a bar or restaurant
- Posting a pay per view event on a Bittorent website (which allows others to share it)
These are some of the main ways you might see UFC piracy claims arise, and this could trigger a legal demand letter from the JHP intellectual property law firms which they state are located across the United States. How do they find out about piracy? Well they send private investigators around to various establishments (similar to what ASCAP and BMI are alleged to do), and report piracy and infringement back to the home office where they decide whether or not to take formal legal action. If legal action is taken, remember, the BURDEN OF PROOF is on them to have the EVIDENCE of wrongdoing, as opposed to unverified witness statements, or photos taken that do not show the movie being shown.
Here is one article showing Joe Hand Production at work against pirates in the Bay Area of California. According to this article:
“The lawsuits typically are filed by three major players with licensing rights for pay-per-view events, which generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue: Campbell-based J&J Sports Productions owns rights to HBO boxing events; Joe Hand Promotions licenses the popular UFC fights; and G&G Closed Circuit is another boxing promoter.
Listen to Attorney Steve discuss Joe hand Promotions Lawsuits on Vondran Legal Hour Podcast
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G&G Closed Circuit Events Website Piracy Reporting
G & G Closed Circuit Events, LLC is another company that has previously filed piracy complaints in federal court. According to their website:
G & G Closed Circuit Events, LLC is committed to protecting its customers and prosecutes commercial signal piracy to the fullest extent of the law. Unauthorized commercial exhibition of the events we license will subject violators to civil liability for actual and statutory damages in excess of $100,000.00, injunctive relief, legal costs and attorneys’ fees, as well as other severe criminal and civil penalties as provided for by federal copyright and state and federal telecommunications laws.
Note, that competitors falsely accusing a competitor of pirating satellite signals can face claims for internet defamation or libel. To see an example of one federal court case involving G & G use the Pacer link and search for case#4:15-cv-01042.
J & J Sports Productions Lawsuits
“It cost a minimum of $1,500 for a business to purchase the event for their venue, which is a hefty fee when compared to the residential cost of $65 or so. Most establishments charge between $5-$20 entry fee to view the fight, and those that forgo the commercial fee and instead purchase with a residential license, better hope they really make their money because it could cost them a lot more in the end. Under the Interception of Radio Communications Act and the Unauthorized Reception of Cable Service Act violators could face over $100,000 in damages if they are found to have willfully transmitted the boxing match without the proper commercial license. Federal statutes allow awards of up to $10,000 for each violation with a penalty as high as $100,000 if the business acted willfully and for commercial advantage or private financial gain.”
Here is an excerpt from one case filed in Massachusetts federal court:
“Plaintiff J & J Sports Production, Inc. hereby incorporates by reference all of the allegations contained in paragraphs 1-8, inclusive, as though set forth herein at length. Pursuant to contract, Plaintiff was granted the exclusive nationwide commercial distribution (closed-circuit) rights to “Toe to Toe” Saul Alvarez v. Alfredo Angulo, Light Middleweight Championship Fight Program, telecast nationwide on March 8, 2014 (this included all under-card bouts and fight commentary encompassed in the television broadcast of the event, hereinafter referred to as the “Program”).
Pursuant to contract, Plaintiff entered into subsequent sublicensing agreements with various commercial entities throughout North America, including entities within the State of Massachusetts, by which it granted these entities limited sub-licensing rights, specifically the rights to publicly exhibit the Program within their respective commercial establishments in the hospitality industry (i.e., hotels, racetracks, casinos, bars, taverns, restaurants, social clubs, etc.).
As a commercial distributor and licensor of sporting events, including the Program, Plaintiff expended substantial monies marketing, advertising, promoting, administering, and transmitting the Program to its customers, the aforementioned commercial entities.
With full knowledge that the Program was not to be intercepted, received, published, divulged, displayed, and/or exhibited by commercial entities unauthorized to do so, each and every of the above named Defendants and/or their agents, servants, workmen or employees did unlawfully intercept, receive, publish, divulge, display, and/or exhibit the Program at the time of its transmission at their commercial establishment in Lawrence, Massachusetts located at 22 Union Street.”
Plaintiff sought statutory damages of $110,000 / $60,000 as well as other remedies. Defendant defended on grounds, among other things, that it was authorized to show the fight, and did not have control over any improper uses. The case appears to be pending. See FEDERAL ONLINE PACER – Case# 1:16-cv-11929-NMG.
Plaintiff was represented by Szumowski Law, P.C. Suite 104 our of Amherst, Mass. Viewing the federal court database, you will see J & J has filed suits in Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, California (Southern District and Central District), and Kentucky. They have filed a large number of lawsuits.
If your business needs help responding to a demand letter or summons and complaint from J & J Sports call us at (877) 276-5084 or email us at the address on the right sidebar on this page.
Does Joe Production file piracy lawsuits?
Yes. Here is one lawsuits that I found on FEDERAL ONLINE PACER:
- Joe Hand v. Blue Hashi – Case 4:15-cv-00235 (District Court Idaho)
“By contract, Plaintiff was granted the right to distribute the UFC 132: Cruz v. Faber Broadcast, including all undercard bouts and the entire television broadcast, scheduled for July 2, 2011, (hereinafter referred to as the “Broadcast”), via closed circuit television and via encrypted satellite signal. The Broadcast originated via satellite uplink, and was subsequently retransmitted to cable systems and satellite companies via satellite signal. Pursuant to the contract, Plaintiff entered into subsequent agreements with various entities of the State of Idaho, allowing them to publicly exhibit the Broadcast to their patrons. In consideration of the aforementioned agreements, Plaintiff expended substantial monies to transmit the Broadcast to those entities in the State of Idaho.
Upon information and belief, with full knowledge that the Broadcast was not to be received and exhibited by entities unauthorized to do so, Defendants and/or their agents, servants, workmen and/or employees unlawfully intercepted, received and/or de-scrambled said satellite signal, and did exhibit the Broadcast at the above-captioned address and/or addresses at the time of its transmission willfully and for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain.”
This was alleged to be a violation of 47 U.S.C. 605 (see below). The complaint also alleged:
“Upon information and belief, Defendants and/or their agents, servants, workmen and/or employees used an illegal satellite receiver, intercepted Plaintiff’s signal and/or used a device to intercept Plaintiff’s Broadcast, which originated via satellite uplink and then retransmitted via satellite or microwave signal to various cable and satellite systems. There are multiple illegal methods of accessing the Broadcast, including,
(1) splicing an additional coaxial cable line or redirecting a wireless signal from an adjacent residence into a business establishment;
(2) commercial establishments misusing cable or satellite by registering same as a resident when it is, in fact, a business; or
(3) taking a lawfully obtained box or satellite receiver from a private residence into a business. In addition, emerging technologies, such as broadband or internet broadcast, as well as “sling box” technology (which allows a consumer to literally sling the Broadcast from his personal home cable or satellite systems into his computer), can allow commercial misuse of residential broadcasting feeds through the internet from anywhere in the world. Each of these methods would allow
Defendants to access the Broadcast unlawfully. Prior to Discovery, Plaintiff is unable to determine the manner in which Defendants obtained the Broadcast. However, it is logical to conclude that Defendants, used an illegal satellite receiver, misrepresented its business establishment as a residence, or removed an authorized residential receiver from one location to a different commercial location to intercept Plaintiff’s Broadcast.”
Damages were sought up to $110,000 plus attorney fees. The Complaint also alleged a violation of 47 U.S.C. 553 (See below):
Upon information and belief, with full knowledge that the Broadcast was not to be received and exhibited by entities unauthorized to do so, Defendants and/or its agents, servants, workmen and or employees did exhibit the Broadcast at the above-captioned address or addresses at the time of its transmission willfully and for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain.
47 U.S.C. §553 prohibits the unauthorized reception, interception and exhibition of any communications service offered over a cable system, such as the transmission herein, to which Plaintiff had the distribution rights.
Upon information and belief, Defendants individually, willfully and illegally intercepted said Broadcast when it was distributed and shown by cable television systems.
By reason of the aforementioned conduct, Defendants herein willfully violated 47 U.S.C. §553, thereby giving rise to a private right of action.
As a result of Defendants’ violation of 47 U.S.C. §553, Plaintiff is entitled to damages in an amount, in the discretion of this Court, of up to the maximum amount of $60,000.00, plus the recovery of full costs, interest and reasonable attorney’s fees.
As you can see, these can be potential damaging cases with a large damage award and attorney fees. As these complaints point out:
This action is brought pursuant to several federal statutes, including The Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §605, and The Cable & Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §553.
Law Firms that have filed federal lawsuits on behalf of Joe Hand Promotions, G& G closed circuit, or J & J Sports Production for TV signal piracy:
- Varin Wardwell (Idaho)
- Jordan Law Firm (Columbia South Carolina)
- Paul J. Hooten & Associates (New York)
- Law Offices of Thomas P. Riley, P.C. (Pasadena, California)
- Browner Law, PLLC (Chapel Hill North Carolina)
- Fletcher Law Firm LLC (Atlanta, Georgia)
- Ziegler Metzger LLP (Cleveland, Ohio)
- The Korn Diaz Firm (G&G Closed Circuit Events, LLC case)
- Korn Bowdich & Diaz LLP (Texas)
- Paul J. Hooten & Associates (New York)
- Zane D. Smith & Associates, Ltd (Chicago, Ill)
Call us if you received a notice of violation of federal law from any law firm. We can discuss your legal rights and potential options available to you. Here is another case dealing with piracy of pay-per-view boxing.
47 U.S. Code § 553 – Unauthorized reception of cable service
(a) Unauthorized interception or receipt or assistance in intercepting or receiving service; “assist in intercepting or receiving” defined:
(1) No person shall intercept or receive or assist in intercepting or receiving any communications service offered over a cable system, unless specifically authorized to do so by a cable operator or as may otherwise be specifically authorized by law:
(2) For the purpose of this section, the term “assist in intercepting or receiving” shall include the manufacture or distribution of equipment intended by the manufacturer or distributor (as the case may be) for unauthorized reception of any communications service offered over a cable system in violation of subparagraph (1).
What are the penalties for violating 47 U.S.C. 533?
Under the federal statute:
(b) Penalties for willful violation:
(1) Any person who willfully violates subsection (a)(1) shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 6 months, or both.
(2) Any person who violates subsection (a)(1) willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned for not more than 2 years, or both, for the first such offense and shall be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both, for any subsequent offense.
(3) For purposes of all penalties and remedies established for violations of subsection (a)(1), the prohibited activity established herein as it applies to each such device shall be deemed a separate violation.
47 U.S. Code § 605 – Unauthorized publication or use of communications
(a) Practices prohibited Except as authorized by chapter 119, title 18, no person receiving, assisting in receiving, transmitting, or assisting in transmitting, any interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio shall divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning thereof, except through authorized channels of transmission or reception,
(1) to any person other than the addressee, his agent, or attorney,
(2) to a person employed or authorized to forward such communication to its destination,
(3) to proper accounting or distributing officers of the various communicating centers over which the communication may be passed,
(4) to the master of a ship under whom he is serving,
(5) in response to a subpoena issued by a court of competent jurisdiction,
(6) on demand of other lawful authority. No person not being authorized by the sender shall intercept any radio communication and divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such intercepted communication to any person. No person not being entitled thereto shall receive or assist in receiving any interstate or foreign communication by radio and use such communication (or any information therein contained) for his own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto. No person having received any intercepted radio communication or having become acquainted with the contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such communication (or any part thereof) knowing that such communication was intercepted, shall divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such communication (or any part thereof) or use such communication (or any information therein contained) for his own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto. This section shall not apply to the receiving, divulging, publishing, or utilizing the contents of any radio communication which is transmitted by any station for the use of the general public, which relates to ships, aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress, or which is transmitted by an amateur radio station operator or by a citizens band radio operator.
Similar penalties apply. Here is a link to a story dealing with satellite piracy claims involving Dish and DirectTV.
According to the article:
“The defendants were charged with crimes that included violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, manufacturing a device to steal satellite signals, and conspiracy, each of which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Those charged are from California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Seven are fighting the charges, seven others have agreed to plead guilty and three already have entered guilty pleas, said Assistant U.S. Atty. James Spertus.”
Mitigating Factors that can help reduce the settlement amount
In my years of negotiating settlements in copyright infringement cases, I can share with you some of the mitigating factors that a Plaintiff (rights holder) will typically take into account in settling their cases (usually for much less than they are demanding in their demand letters and as may be sought in the complaint filed with the Court:
- Good faith / bad faith of Defendant (no prior incidents)
- Evidence or lack of evidence of wrongdoing by the named party (was it someone else’s fault)?
- Coming forward quickly and promptly (ex. by hiring legal counsel to address the matter rather than hiding from legal demand letters or service of a summons).
- Cable or satellite service provider told you that you had a legal right to watch the fight on terms you presented to them (ex. paying for a “private viewing” of friends)
- Financial condition of the Defendant (financial hardships may be considered)
- Other factors that lead to the conclusion that the bar, tavern, restaurant owner or other had no reason to believe that it was doing anything illegal. In this case, the two main statutes address this situation, and if proven in Court, JJ Sports, Joe Hand, or other Plaintiff may walk out of court completely “knocked out.”
47 U.S.C. 605 (Satellite Piracy)
(iii) “In any case where the court finds that the violator was not aware and had no reason to believe that his acts constituted a violation of this section, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of damages to a sum of not less than $250.”
47 U.S.C. 553 (Cable TV piracy)
(C) “In any case where the court finds that the violator was not aware and had no reason to believe that his acts constituted a violation of this section, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of damages to a sum of not less than $100.”
We can help you obtain the lowest settlement possible in these cases through our experienced and skilled negotiation strategies.
Sample Verdicts & Settlements
Contact a Pay-Per-View (PPV) Satellite TV Piracy Defense Law Firm
Our intellectual property law firm can represent both Plaintiffs and Defendants in illegal broadcast TV signal piracy cases. If you are a Defendant charged with illegally showing boxing fights in your sports bar, restaurant, tavern, athletic club, or other venue open to the public, call us for a free initial consultation. We can help you respond to a monetary demand letter, or a federal court lawsuit filed in one of the United States Federal District Courts.
Also, if you are charged with using software or code word subscriptions, or internet key sharing (“IKS”) to obtain satellite signals (ex. PPV) without obtaining the proper commercial license or dealing with Kodi Firestick legal issues, call us to discuss your rights and options for settlement. These types of claims may also be posed as a violation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) by using “anti-circumvention” techniques to access protected content under 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1).
We can help you analyze these claims. We can also help respond to legal issues involving Dish Network, LLC. Call us at (877) 276-5084 for a no cost initial discussion. UNLIKE MANY OTHER LAW FIRMS, WE OFFER LOW FLAT RATE LEGAL FEES FOR MOST CASES.
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