In December 2009, Ultimate Fighting Championship CEO Lorenzo Fertitta testified at a hearing of the US House Judiciary Committee that his business was losing millions to piracy. His organization later announced that it would start taking legal action against infringers.
Lawrence Epstein, general legal counsel for the UFC, said the mixed-martial arts outfit might even subpoena sites in order to gain the IP-addresses of people who were illegally downloading and sharing UFC events.
“When people start going to jail,” said UFC President Dana White, “people will stop doing it.”
But of course, it wouldn’t be easy, something acknowledged by White.
“It’s going to be a battle, man,” he said. “It’s going to be a battle, but I’m ready to (expletive) fight,” he said. “We’re gonna go after them, we’re gonna go after them hard, and we’re gonna hurt em.”
Aside from illegal streams, plenty of infringers can also be found on BitTorrent. Last Saturday’s big event, UFC 116, where UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar faced off with interim champion Shane Carwin was a huge success, pulling in more than 250,000 views on BitTorrent alone.
Now, in a new announcement from the UFC, the company says that as part of its ongoing effort to combat piracy, it has reached “confidential settlements with over 500 businesses and individuals” in connection with unauthorized “broadcasts and views” of UFC events.
While it seems reasonable to expect that the UFC has managed to shut down some streams of its live events (it hit Rage-Streams.net earlier this year), the suggestion that it would go after end users seems unlikely. Due to their private nature the settlements – which were reached over the last 2 years – are impossible to investigate, but the subtle implication with its chosen wording that somehow the UFC is being successful against those merely viewing illicit streams doesn’t hold much water.
“We are committed to standing toe-to-toe with anyone trying to illegally broadcast or stream UFC events,” announced White yesterday. “Today’s announcement further drives home the fact that we are fully prepared to pursue any business or individual that steals our programming.”
The UFC’s attack on piracy, which thus far hasn’t received the support of commentator Joe Rogan who said that it “kind of stifles innovation”, is costing the UFC more money than the piracy itself.
“(Piracy) hasn’t cost us anything compared to what it’s going to cost us to go after these guys,” said White earlier.
Nevertheless, when the UFC gets tough, it really does ask for big money. Earlier this year a lawsuit filed in the District Court in Boston revealed that the UFC was suing a bar owner for showing one of their events without an appropriate license. A license costs between $500 and $1,500 depending on the size of the location showing it but apparently the bar didn’t have one. The UFC demanded $640,000 plus legal costs.
The UFC has also been spending not insignificant money lobbying the US Government. In 2008, the first year it filed lobbying reports, the UFC spent $280,000 – an amount reportedly more than double the industry average for that year. In 2009 it spent $320,000 and to end April 2010, another $80,000.