By Bryanna Fissori
When two big names like Floyd Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez are scheduled to stand toe to toe, you can bet most boxing fans are going to make it a point to be wherever they need to be to watch the fight.
Many sports bars across the country have made it a point to be “that place,” but a good number have found the price to be much higher than anticipated.
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.
J&J Sports Productions is a California based company that handles the majority of PPV distribution across the nation especially for boxing events. According to a legal document search, from September 1, 2013 through September 16 the company has already filed over 50 lawsuits. The total for the year so far is nearly 300.
The vast majority of the causes of action are being brought against business that have been caught by private investigators hired by J&J to collect evidence of pirated streams.
It can take months or years before the production company serves the business. Recently, five Kentucky establishments were served with lawsuits stemming from a 2011 broadcast of Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs Victor Ortiz, which took place nearly two years ago. J&J Sports Productions is asking for more than $150,000 in damages for each of these cases.
The most common causes of action deal with copyright infringement and include;
47 U.S.C. §605 (a) “prohibits the unauthorized reception and publication or use of communications such as the transmission for which plaintiff had the distribution rights thereto.”
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 for which plaintiff had the distribution rights thereto.”
17 U.S.C § 501 (a) “Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by sections 106 through 122 or of the author as provided in section 106A(a), or who imports copies or phone records into the United States in violation of section 602, is an infringer of the copyright or right of the author, as the case may be. . .”
The offense of pirating fights for commercial broadcast using residential licenses is not exclusive to boxing, but also prevalent in mixed martial arts. The largest distributor of pay per view events for MMA is Joe Hand Productions. Like J&J, they also have their own private investigators, as does the UFC.
Investigators often pay the cover charge at the establishment showing the fight, and take several photographs to document the number of people viewing the event and verify that the event was being shown. They do not announce themselves, so let that be a warning to business hoping to follow the same strategy. It is probably not worth the risk.