TV Signal Piracy

Thousands of restaurant and bar owners have been sued across the country for allegedly committing television signal piracy. The underlying act that forms the basis of these lawsuits is showing pay-per-view television programs (usually UFC fights and boxing matches, or other sports events) in a commercial establishment without paying the commercial rate for the rights to show the program. Attorney Matthew Paré is the national expert in defending these cases on behalf the business owners who are getting sued. Mr. Paré specializes in defending these particular lawsuits and by focusing on this specific area of the law he has been able to achieve fantastic results.

The most common plaintiffs in these TV cases are J & J Sports Productions, Inc. and Joe Hand Promotions, Inc., although there are several other corporations that have the rights to certain programs and have also brought television signal piracy lawsuits (such as Integrated Sports Media, Inc., G & G Closed Circuit Events, LLC, Circuito Cerrado, Inc., and even Directv, Inc.). Whoever has the intellectual property rights to the particular UFC fight or other TV program can bring a lawsuit.

In most of these TV lawsuits the plaintiff has compelling evidence in the form of video surveillance footage taken by a private investigator documenting that the TV program was in fact shown. In some cases the plaintiff’s evidence consists of a written affidavit of a private investigator. Occasionally, however, the plaintiff has surprisingly little evidence to support the accusations, in which case affidavits of the workers and patrons at the restaurant can be used to counter the claims of the plaintiff. Even in the cases where the unlawful exhibition is irrefutable, however, attorney Matthew Paré can resolve the case with a very small settlement, given his knowledge and effective defense strategy in television signal piracy cases. Shortly after developing this specialty there was even a newspaper article about one of Mr. Pare's cases in the San Diego Citybeat. In that case the plaintiff J & J Sports Productions, Inc. was represented by attorney Thomas P. Riley out of South Pasadena, California.

The applicable law, unfortunately, is favored strongly on the side of the plaintiffs in that it provides for a mandatory award of attorney’s fees and costs for the prevailing plaintiff, and the law is strict liability, meaning that even if the defendant did not intentionally steal a TV signal the defendant is still liable if the TV program was displayed without paying the correct price. The applicable statutes also provide for a mandatory award of damages that can reach in excess of $100,000.00 if the plaintiff proves that the defendant willfully stole the signal. For all of these reasons, the potential damages that defendants can be exposed to in television signal piracy cases goes well beyond merely the original cost of purchasing the boxing match or UFC fight for a commercial establishment. It is also possible for individual defendants to be personally liable for the damages in a television signal piracy case even if they have formed a business entity such as a corporation.

In general, the statute 47 U.S.C. §605 applies to pirating a satellite television signal, and 47 U.S.C. §553 applies to pirating a cable television signal. It is also common for the complaints in television signal piracy cases to include other causes of action for conversion (the common law tort of stealing), and other state claims, such as Violation of Business & Professions Code §17200, for Unfair Business Acts or Practices in California, or other similar laws depending on where the lawsuit is filed. The plaintiffs in television signal piracy cases can also sue people under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §101.

Television signal piracy cases are litigated in the federal court system, in one of the United States District Courts. Most attorneys have no experience with the unique procedures of federal court (as opposed to state courts), but attorney Matthew Paré has specialized in defending these lawsuits and is therefore extremely familiar with that venue. Also, because the cases are all within the federal court system, Matthew Paré is able to defend these cases across the country, often resolving the cases without even having to make a personal appearance.

There is a large range of monetary damages that could possibly be awarded in television signal piracy cases, and the factors to evaluate the damages are as follows: (1) Repeated violations, (2) intent to profit, (3) actual profit, (4) extent of broadcast, (5) number of patrons. Attorney Matthew Paré will be able to analyze the facts of your particular case and evaluate what a reasonable settlement range would be for any particular situation, knowing the judgments and settlements in other similar cases. He can also advise you as to whether taking the matter to trial may be in your best interest.

If you have received a pre-litigation demand letter accusing you and your business of showing a pay-per-view TV program in violation of the TV signal owner’s proprietary rights, contact attorney Matthew Paré to discuss your situation. Do not ignore such a letter, even if you believe you are innocent because you will be sued and it may be possible to resolve the case more easily before litigation has commenced.

If you have already been served with a summons and complaint initiating a formal lawsuit against you and your business for TV signal piracy, contact attorney Matthew Paré immediately. The time limit for defendants to file a response in federal court is very limited and a failure to respond in a timely manner may result in a default judgment being entered against you for what the plaintiff is requesting.

Regardless of your situation, attorney Matthew Paré has the expertise and experience necessary to successfully resolve your television signal piracy case.

Contact him today for a free consultation.