About a year ago, we wrote about a then-recent decision in the Federal District Court for New Jersey in which the owner of a sports bar and restaurant was found guilty of violating the federal Communications Act, which prohibits the unauthorized reception of radio or television transmissions as well as satellite transmissions. Both sets of statutes carry the possibility of statutory damages, including “enhanced” (or punitive) damages, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees. The bar and restaurant had illegally intercepted a pay-per-view boxing match and displayed it throughout the establishment.
Now, another sports bar/restaurant owner will pay the price. In May of 2010, Robin Waldron and Charlynn Waldron arranged for the illegal interception of an Ultimate Fighting Championship television broadcast for dissemination in their sports bar/restaurant in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. With the defendants having failed to appear in a lawsuit brought by the owner of the rights to the broadcast, the Court determined, on the basis of the allegations set forth in the complaint, that summary judgment was appropriate, finding the defendants guilty of the unauthorized interception of the programming. Indeed, despite the fact that the plaintiff was unable to determine whether the defendants had intercepted a cable system signal or a satellite broadcast signal (because such information was within the domain of the defendants), the Court concluded that a violation of both statutes (47 U.S.C. §553, applicable to communications over a wired cable system, and 47 U.S.C. §605, applicable to communications via satellite), could be sustained and that sufficient evidence existed to establish a violation in either case.
On that basis, the Court ordered the defendants to pay statutory and enhanced damages (owing to the willful nature of the defendants’ actions), as well as Court costs and attorney’s fees, totaling almost $8,000.00.
An expensive evening of television.
If you have any questions about this case or would like to discuss the legal issues involved, please contact me, Dennis Linken, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work.