Being Named Individually in a TV Piracy Case

Posted on June 19, 2015 by Matthew Paré

One of the most surprising and frustrating things in TV signal piracy cases is that the business owner is named individually as a defendant, even if there is a business entity such as a corporation or LLC.  The reason that business owners go to the trouble of forming a corporation or LLC, after all, is in large part to avoid the potential for personal liability for lawsuits or other claims against them related to the business, so being sued individually can be shocking.  Being named individually as a defendant in a TV piracy case also means that your personal assets are at stake.

Unfortunately, the field of TV signal piracy is an exception to the normal rules of piercing the corporate veil.  In most types of cases it is somewhat difficult to assert liability on the part of the stockholders of a corporation, for example, and the only proper defendant is the business entity itself.  There are only a few exceptions to that general rule, and unfortunately cases of TV signal piracy and copyright violations are exceptions.  There is a much lower standard to establish individual liability in these cases.

In determining who to name as defendants the plaintiffs in TV signal piracy cases will typically look at things like business licenses, liquor licenses, fictitious business name applications, or any similar documents that identify names of individuals associated with the ownership of the establishment, including members of an LLC.  As the named licensee of the establishment at the outset of the lawsuit those are the proper defendants and cannot simply be removed from the lawsuit with a motion to dismiss.  

Ultimately, after the discovery phase of the litigation is complete it may be possible to file a motion for summary judgment as to the liability of individual defendants if it can be established with evidence that the defendants had no role in the alleged piracy.  However, the exact legal rules that courts have used in determining whether individual liability is appropriate in TV signal piracy cases has not been consistent and varies.  Some courts have a rather low standard in determining whether there can be individual liability.  The most common legal test or rule is whether the named defendant had a right and ability to supervise the violations and a financial interest in the business.  The two other tests that have been used by various courts is whether there is no distinction between the actions of the individual and the corporation, and if the defendant authorized the piracy, controlled the TV, and derived a financial benefit from it.

Overall, frustrating as it may be, it is very common and to be expected that individual defendants will be named in TV signal piracy cases, not just business entities.  It is possible that the individual defendants may prevail on a motion for summary judgment, but that will only be later in the litigation and there is some variability in terms of the standards courts have used to determine whether individual liability is appropriate.  

Because your individual personal assets are at stake in a TV signal piracy case, this is a very serious matter that requires expert counsel to obtain the best possible result.  Contact attorney Matthew Pare today to further discuss the particulars of your case.  He can be reached at 619-869-4999.


TV Signal Piracy

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