Sports bars and restaurants are abundant these days. It is difficult to find a community without at least one, if not many, such establishments within its midst. The idea, of course, is to attract patrons through television coverage of games and events on multiple sets throughout the seating area. Often these games and events are broadcast as pay-per-view events, meaning, of course, that the establishment must pay for its right to receive the broadcast.
It may be tempting on the part of the bar or restaurant owner to cheat – to try to intercept a broadcast signal so as to be able to display a game or event to customers without having to pay for it. Bar and restaurant owners, however, should beware: the illegal reception of pay-per-view programming could cost you thousands.
A recently decided case, J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Joseph Gencarelli, et al., one of many such decisions, has made clear that the improper receipt and display of pay-per-view programming (in that case, the 2010 Mayweather/Mosely boxing match) violates federal law prohibiting the unauthorized receipt of radio or television transmissions. Importantly, if the unlawful broadcast of such transmissions is for “commercial advantage” or “private financial gain,” the law permits higher statutory damages -- possibly as much as $100,000 or more. A violation also carries with it the possibility of imprisonment if a criminal conviction is obtained.
The unlawful carriage of pay-per-view events may seem like it would be good for business, but it may turn out in the end to be bad for the bottom line.