The parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship has sued two northern South Dakota bars, claiming the establishments pirated a pay-per-view event last fall.
On July 1, Zuffa filed a copyright lawsuit in U.S. District Court in South Dakota against Robert John Kohl, owner of the Main Street Bar and Casino in Sisseton. One week later, the Las Vegas-based corporation filed a similar complaint against Jason Miller, manager of Jake's Pub and Casino in Aberdeen.
Both lawsuits claim the owners pirated the UFC 121 broadcast Oct. 23 and screened the fights for patrons without paying the license fee required for a commercial exhibition.
Zuffa is asking for $210,000 to $260,000 in damages, depending on how the owners pirated the fights.
To pirate the broadcast, the lawsuit says, Kohl and Miller could have paid the residential price for the pay-per-view event without notifying Zuffa that the broadcast would be shown to patrons, spliced a coaxial cable or brought a home receiver to their businesses.
The incentive for piracy is financial, according to Marla Siegel, a lawyer for Lonstein Law Office in Ellenville, N.Y. The firm handles Zuffa's piracy lawsuits, several of which are filed each year.
The company hires private auditors and investigators to look into claims of piracy, she said.
"Zuffa has a list of people who have purchased a license, and if you're not on that list, you're showing their project without their permission and in violation of the law," Siegel said.
An establishment with a capacity of 50 or less pays $900 per event, and the price goes up a few hundred dollars for each jump in capacity.
"It's not inexpensive," Siegel said. "They'll always be those people who try to get around the rules."
The Main Street Bar & Casino in Sisseton has a capacity of 101 to 200 people, according to the lawsuit. Jake's Pub and Casino has a capacity of 50 to 100 people.