A restaurant in Florida allegedly showed its patrons UFC 239 on July 6, 2019, but paid only the residential fee, not the far higher commercial fee. The restaurant advertised about the broadcast on social media, which came to the UFC's attention, which pursued damages in civil court. The league sought $40,000 in damages for unauthorized interception of the transmission, $40,000 in damages for copyright infringement, $612 in attorney’s fees and $800 in costs.
When the restaurant presented no defense, a clerk’s default was entered prior to the UFC moving for default judgment. The court recognized willful violations of the Communications Act and the UFC's copyright, which allowed it to award enhanced damages. However, while the court acknowledged that while enhanced damages should generally be substantial enough to discourage future lawless conduct, it should not be so severe so as to seriously impair the viability of the defendant’s business.
And that's where COVID-19 comes in; the pandemic is of course hitting Florida particularly hard.
“It is impossible to ignore the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in applying this standard,” stated the court. “Restaurants remain in significant economic distress, with restrictions on indoor dining capacity still in effect. An award that might otherwise amount to a strong deterrent could be catastrophic.”
Instead of awarding the plaintiff with its requested $60,000 in enhanced damages, the court awarded a mere $1,000 in that category of relief.