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J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Get Away Lounge, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 30, 2015

J&J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GET AWAY LOUNGE, INC. t/a GETAWAY LOUNGE t/a GETAWAY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THEODORE D. CHUANG, United States District Judge

Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc. ("J&J Sports") alleges that Defendant Get Away Lounge, Inc. ("Defendant") illegally exhibited a closed circuit broadcast of a boxing match to which J&J Sports owned the exclusive commercial distribution rights. J&J Sports brings claims for a violation of the Federal Communications Act (the "FCA"), 47 U.S.C. §§ 553, 605 (2012), and conversion. Presently pending is J&J Sports' Motion for Summary Judgment on the issues of liability and damages under the FCA.[1] The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary to resolve the issues. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

J&J Sports distributes sports and entertainment programming through closed circuit television. It owned the exclusive commercial exhibition licensing rights to Manny Pacquiao v. Timothy Bradley, WBO Welterweight Championship Fight Program (the "Program") broadcast nationwide on June 9, 2012. The night of the Program, J&J Sports hired an investigator who entered the Getaway Lounge ("Getaway"), a commercial establishment in Waldorf, Maryland. Defendant did not purchase a license to exhibit the Program at Getaway. Getaway generally used Direct TV satellite services to broadcast entertainment programs to patrons.

The investigator paid a $40 cover charge to enter Getaway. Inside, there were five televisions and a large projector screen. Four of the televisions were showing a National Basketball Association playoff game between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. Another television showed a Keno lottery game, and there were Keno machines on the bar. The sound on the televisions was turned down. The Program was shown on a projector screen in front of a wall. A live band performed music in front of a dance floor and made "a lot of noise" throughout the Program. Moon Aff. at 1-2, ECF No. 1-2. The investigator counted between 100 and 200 people inside Getaway at various times throughout the evening. The investigator estimated that Getaway had a maximum capacity of about 250 people, but did not see a sign confirming the maximum capacity. The investigator did not see any advertisements for the Program.

On October 15, 2013, J&J Sports filed suit against Defendant under the FCA for exhibiting the Program without purchasing a commercial license. J&J Sports now moves for summary judgment.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is proper 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "A material fact is one that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute of material fact is only "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. "[A] summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)) (internal quotation marks omitted). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

II. The FCA

In its Complaint, J&J Sports asserted claims under Sections 553 and 605 of the FCA. Because Getaway used a satellite transmission to broadcast its sporting events, J&J Sports does not seek summary judgment under Section 553, which prohibits the unauthorized receipt or publication of cable transmissions. 47 U.S.C. § 553. J&J Sports seeks summary judgment only under Section 605, which provides, in relevant part:

No person not being entitled thereto shall receive or assist in receiving any interstate or foreign communication by radio and use such communication (or any information therein contained) for his own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto. No person having received any intercepted radio communication or having become acquainted with the contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such communication (or any part thereof) knowing that such communication was intercepted, shall divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such communication (or any part thereof) or use such communication (or any information therein contained) for his own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto.

§ 605(a). This provision prohibits the unauthorized receipt or publication of satellite communications. J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Mumford, No. DKC 10-2967, 2012 WL 1409588, at *5 (D. Md. Apr. 20, 2012).

The FCA is a strict liability statute. Compare 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II) (providing for the recovery of damages for each violation of the statute), with 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii) (providing for enhanced damages when a violation is willful and for the purpose of commercial gain), and 47 U.S.C. ยง 605(e)(3)(C)(iii) (allowing for damages to be reduced to $250 if "the violator was not aware and had no reason to believe his acts constituted a violation of this section"). Thus, J&J Sports need only show that it had the exclusive ...


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