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J & J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Hackett

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 6, 2017

J & J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES A. HACKETT, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.

         Plaintiff J & J Sports Productions, Inc. (“Plaintiff” or “J & J”) brings this action against Defendants All Star Sports Bar & Grille, Inc. (“All Star Sports Bar”) and individual Charles A. Hackett (“Hackett”), alleging commercial piracy of a certain boxing match between Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez, in violation of the Communications Act of 1934. Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment, and Defendants have responded in partial opposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion and enter judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against both Defendants.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a California corporation that paid for exclusive nationwide commercial distribution rights to a boxing match between Miguel Cotto and Sergio Martinez that took place on June 7, 2014 (the “Program”). Compl. ¶ 16. Plaintiff then sublicensed these rights to various commercial entities across North America. Id. ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff alleges that it did not sublicense rights to the Program to the Hotel Sports Bar & Grille (“Hotel Sports Bar”), which is located at 541 West Lancaster Avenue in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and owned and operated by Defendant All Star Sports Bar. Id. ¶¶ 7, 19. According to Plaintiff, Defendants unlawfully intercepted the Program and showed the live broadcast to patrons at Hotel Sports Bar without having obtained the proper license to do so. Id. ¶ 19.

         Plaintiff filed its complaint in this case on June 3, 2016. ECF No. 1. Following the Court's denial of Defendant Hackett's motion to dismiss, see ECF No. 26, the parties engaged in discovery, and Plaintiff moved for summary judgment against both Defendants on May 10, 2017, ECF No. 28. Attached to the motion is, among other items, an affidavit signed by Daniel Szlezak, the private investigator who visited Hotel Sports Bar during the Program broadcast on June 7, 2014. ECF No. 28-5.

         Defendants responded together in partial opposition to Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 29, and Plaintiff replied, ECF No. 36. The motion is now ripe for disposition.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by ‘the mere existence' of some disputed facts, but will be denied when there is a genuine issue of material fact.” Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986)). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the litigation, and a dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. “After making all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor, there is a genuine issue of material fact if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.” Pignataro v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 593 F.3d 265, 268 (3d Cir. 2010). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but meeting this obligation shifts the burden to the nonmoving party, who then must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Section 605 of the Communications Act of 1934 “provides a civil remedy for the unauthorized use or publication of various wire or radio communications, including encrypted satellite broadcasts.” DIRECTV, Inc. v. Seijas, 508 F.3d 123, 125 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting DIRECTV, Inc. v. Pepe, 431 F.3d 162, 164 (3d Cir. 2005)). Specifically, this statutory provision prohibits the unauthorized reception of “any interstate or foreign communication by radio” and the use of any such communication “for his own benefit or the benefit of another not entitled thereto.” 47 U.S.C. § 605(a).[1]

         Under certain circumstances, an individual may be held vicariously liable for a § 605 violation committed by his or her co-defendant corporation. Courts within this district have articulated the following requirements for imposing this type of vicarious liability:

An individual may be liable if he “(1) has the right and ability to supervise the violative activity, although he need not actually be supervising, because he need not know of the violative activity, and (2) has a direct financial interest in the violation, i.e., financial benefits, even if not proportional ...

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