A California company that held the exclusive rights to a 2015 pay-per-view boxing match says a now-closed Lexington restaurant illegally pirated the signal for the fight, according to a suit filed in federal court.
J&J Sports Productions Inc. claims House of Soul and manager Rico P. Williams showed without permission the Sept. 12, 2015, the bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Andre Berto.
Williams could not be immediately reached for comment. House of Soul, which was on South Limestone Street, closed and dissolved in 2016, according to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website.
J&J, which handles the rights for major boxing matches, had the exclusive nationwide distribution rights to the Mayweather vs. Berto fight shown on Showtime PPV. Bars and restaurants who pay a commercial sublicensing fee can air such events.
J&J alleges in the suit filed in federal court in Lexington last week that House of Soul “did unlawfully intercept, receive, publish, divulge, display and/or exhibit” the fight at the time of its transmission.
The civil suit doesn’t specify how the broadcast signal for the fight was allegedly pirated.
J&J has filed thousands of similar suits across the country, according to New York Law Journal. As in those suits, the Lexington complaint alleges violations of the federal Communications Act, which allows statutory damages of up to $100,000 and attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party.
The suit against House of Soul appears to be the first filed by J&J in federal courts in the Eastern District of Kentucky, but 15 such suits were filed between 2006 and this year in the Western District that includes Louisville, Owensboro and Paducah.
Of those 15 suits, five were settled out of court. In another five cases, judgments of varying amounts were filed against the defendants. (The largest judgment was for $12,200 in damages and attorney fees.)
Of the remaining cases, one defendant went into bankruptcy; two defendants never answered the suit and so had default judgments against them; one defendant is in settlement conference; and in the final case a request for default judgment has been filed but has not been approved by a judge.
Illegal streaming and pirating were also issues in the Aug. 26 bout between Mayweather and UFC star Conor McGregor.
The Internet security firm Irdeto estimated that 2.93 million people watched an illegal stream of the Mayweather-McGregor fight. That match was projected to make $500 million in the U.S. and $700 million worldwide in pay-per-view revenue.