UFC has successfully sued at least one person for watching streams

USA TODAY Sports

UFC successfully sued at least one man for $12,000 last year for watching two pay-per-view streams.

In light of the UFC's announcement that they had shut down another streaming service and would be prosecuting infringers, I decided to look into what happened after the last such announcement they made back in 2012.


I initially felt they would have difficulty suing people under traditional copyright infringement statutes used by people like the MPAA (Title 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.) because of the difficulty proving the viewer actually possessed the object or engaged in one of the other acts rendering them liable. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever been sued for copyright infringement because they viewed a stream. If Zuffa was to be the first to sue someone for this, they run the risk of setting unfavourable precedents.

It turns out that instead of risking setting unfavourable case law, the UFC lawyers appear to have decided to take a slightly different route, instead suing under Title 47 of the United States Code, §§ 553 and 605.

Section 553 prohibits persons from intercepting or receiving "any communications service offered over a cable system, unless specifically authorized to do so..." Section 605 proscribes the unauthorized interception and publication of any "radio communication."

What this essentially means is instead of suing for copyright infringement, they sued the streamer for intercepting or receiving their Pay-Per-View signal without having the authorization to do so.

They successfully sued at least one person under this act, and I have no reason to doubt the claims from their press release that the actual number was hundreds. In this case, the plaintiff chose not to defend the allegation, and as a result a default judgement was awarded against him.

He was ordered to pay $2,000 in statutory damages ($1,000 per event streamed, the minimum damages allowed by law), $4,000 in enhanced damages and $5,948.70 in attorney's fees and costs. All in all streaming two Pay-Per-View events cost him $11,948.70.

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