Is it Okay if I do not Charge a Cover?

Posted on June 29, 2015 by Matthew Paré

A common misconception in TV piracy cases and showing pay-per-view programming in general is that it is okay for commercial establishments to show this type of programming on TV and pay the residential rate as long as they do not charge a cover charge.  That is simply not true.

The important legal distinction is whether the location is a residential dwelling unit or not.  If it is a residential dwelling unit then you can pay the residential price for a pay-per-view program and you are all set.  If it is anything other than a residential dwelling unit you will have to pay the commercial license fee, regardless of whether or not you charge a cover charge for people to enter the premises.  

There is a lot of misinformation out there from salespeople and technicians who set up TV services, but take it from an attorney who specializes in this area of the law and has defended hundreds and hundreds of TV signal piracy cases.  If you show a pay-per-view TV program in a business of any kind (or really anything other than a place where someone lives) and do not pay the commercial license fee you will likely find yourself a defendant in a TV signal piracy lawsuit.  It is not defense that you did not attempt to profit from the exhibition or did not charge a cover charge.  Even charitable groups, churches, fraternal organizations, or other private groups are often sued after viewing such an event.

To be clear, whether or not a cover charge is charged is relevant in assessing what the damages in the case are, in other words the value of the case, but it is not relevant in assessing the issue of liability.  The issue of liability is whether someone is legally responsible for the unauthorized exhibition.  Having a cover charge is an aggravating factor that would enhance the value of the TV piracy case, but it is not necessary to have a cover charge in order to be found liable for TV signal piracy.

So, how do you know if you paid the correct commercial license fee?  The answer is that for boxing matches it will most likely be J & J Sports Productions, Inc. that you needed to pay directly, and for UFC fights it is Joe Hand Promotions, Inc.  If you paid any other entity chances are very good that you did not pay the correct commercial license fee.  In other words, if you paid your TV service provider directly, you paid the wrong price to the wrong company.  If a commercial establishment has a proper public viewing commercial account and you inquire as to purchasing a pay-per-view sports program you should be directed to these other companies (J & J Sports Productions, Inc. or Joe Hand Promotions, Inc., for example) who have the exclusive rights.

Overall, in a TV signal piracy case charging a cover charge is a bad thing, but it is not necessary to charge a cover charge to be found liable for TV signal piracy.  Do not listen to bad advice from misinformed salespeople or technicians because you will likely end up a defendant in a TV signal piracy case.  For more information about TV signal piracy law or for representation in this type of lawsuit contact attorney Matthew Pare at 619-869-4999.

TV Signal Piracy

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