UFC has accused a Massachusetts bar of showing UFC 104 without coughing up a licensing fee, the Boston Herald reports. According to the newspaper, UFC seeks an award of $640,000 plus legal costs.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday targets an Allston, Mass. bar called The Draft, along with owner Derek Brady. A UFC lawyer cited an eyewitness who claimed the bar showed the promotion's Oct. 24 pay-per-view broadcast by using a laptop computer hooked up to a TV.
I absolutely support the UFC's efforts here. Theft is theft and never acceptable. However, if they believe intimidating lawsuits will end this madness they're absolutely dreaming.
What they ultimately have to provide - in addition to the heavy-handed approach of litigation - is an online portal or interface where fights can be affordably purchased, either individually or collectively. What saved the music industry from piracy was less about Metallica's efforts to crush Napster and more about the industry collectively getting behind iTunes. The Apple software application provided a mechanism for the fans to cheaply obtain their favorite songs under a single platform that made downloading, sorting and organizing easy. More importantly, iTunes (unlike mp3.com or other competitors) was the first and only platform that had the full support of the music industry. That was the real game changer.
The UFC has to create something similar. As it stands, their software on their site is clumsy and difficult to navigate. It only works with certain browsers and even then is not guaranteed to function properly. One also can't get other fights from rival leagues, although the combination of WEC, UFC and PRIDE (maybe WFA or IFL, too?) isn't such a bad combination.
The UFC's PPV stream on Yahoo is ok, but at the same price as regular television pay-per-view it's essentially no alternative at all. Online has to be tantamount to cheaper, at least right now.
I say to the UFC: sue and sue as much as you like. But you won't win the battle without offering MMA fans an online alternative similarly to how iTunes offered music fans a legal, safe method to online downloading.