Triller Celebrates Win Over Pirate YouTuber But Judge Slashes Damages

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The young operator of a small YouTube channel that showed the Jake Paul vs Ben Askren fight to less than 300 viewers has lost his case against Triller after failing to show up. Triller is celebrating the default judgment as a big win but the case shows that even when defendants fail to appear, a judge is still able to cut through excessive claims for damages.

TrillerAfter Jake Paul knocked out Ben Askren in the short-lived main event of a Triller fight card earlier this year, it was no surprise to learn that the event had been heavily pirated online.

This lit a fire under Triller Fight Club, which responded with a wave of lawsuits aimed at bringing the perpetrators to justice. One of the company’s targets was Matthew Space, the young operator of the Eclipt Gaming YouTube channel which usually specializes in gaming videos but also uploaded the fight after the event had finished.

According to Triller’s evidence the video received just 297 views but Space’s actions were nevertheless described by the plaintiff as “calculated and reprehensible infringement”. Triller alleged two types of copyright infringement alongside violations of the Federal Communications Act and, at least initially, demanded millions of dollars in damages.

While Askren at least put up a short fight back in April, Space failed to defend himself in any way, meaning that Triller came away with a win this week via a default judgment. However, despite Triller’s grand claims regarding the damages owed due to Space’s conduct, the judge wasn’t convinced by the calculations in the company’s proposed default judgment.

Proposed Default Judgment Amount Excessive

Filed in October, Triller’s motion demanded statutory damages of $150,000 for Space’s willful infringement under the Copyright Act. It further requested $10,000 for violations of the Federal Communications Act plus costs and attorneys’ fees, reaching a grand total of $171,190.

After reviewing the motion, California District Judge R. Gary Klausner found that considering the seriousness of Space’s conduct, the amounts requested were far too high.

Claim Under Copyright Act

Part of Triller’s calculations for the losses it suffered were derived from the claim that as a result of the fight being uploaded to YouTube, Space’s channel saw an increase of around 70,000 views. At a PPV fee of $49.99, Triller claimed that its losses could’ve been as high as $3.5m but Judge Klausner wasn’t convinced.

“[T]his figure does not necessarily indicate that 70,000 unique individuals streamed the Broadcast through Defendants’ channel. Rather, because the same person could have watched the Broadcast several times, or could have watched the various non-infringing videos on Defendants’ channel, it simply shows that Defendants’ entire YouTube channel gained 70,000 views after the Broadcast was uploaded,” he writes.

“Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges that 300 unique viewers watched the Broadcast through Defendants’ channel, and it includes a screenshot showing that the video had garnered 297 views. Thus, the Court finds it more plausible that 300 individual viewers watched the Broadcast in the short time it was available than that 70,000 individuals did so.”

In summary, the Court found that Triller lost $15,000 ($49.99 x 300) as a result of Space’s conduct and that $15,000 is a justified statutory damages award under the Copyright Act.

Claim Under Federal Communications Act

Noting that statutory damages for a violation of 47 U.S. Code § 605 (unauthorized publication or use of communications) can range from $1,000 to $10,000, the Judge found that since Space had not previously violated the Act and only one violation is being alleged in this matter, an award towards the lower end would be appropriate.

“[P]laintiff does not indicate how long Defendants’ YouTube video of the Broadcast remained available to the viewing public, providing only that it ‘promptly’ notified YouTube of the infringing content,” the Judge writes.

“Assuming that 300 individuals watched the Broadcast via Defendants’ YouTube channel and that none of them paid a fee to Defendants, the Court finds that an award of $1,000 is appropriate here.”

While a total of $16,000 in damages is way lower than the amount demanded by Triller, Space will also have to pay the company’s costs and attorneys’ fees. That amount is yet to be decided by the Court for technical reasons but is likely to exceed $1,200.

Triller Applauds Default Judgment

In a lengthy press release celebrating its victory, Triller mentioned nothing of the actual damages award but held up the judgment as a warning to other potential infringers.

“We are pleased to have the Court stand with Fight Club and, more importantly, send a shot over the bow of anyone who seeks to infringe on the lawful rights of artists and the platforms that support them,” said Mahi de Silva, TrillerNet’s Chief Executive Officer.

The sentiment was echoed by TrillerNet co-founder Ryan Kavanaugh.

“If someone broke into a Tesla dealer and stole 10 cars it wouldn’t even be a question, the law would punish them,” he said.

“Our losses from these bad actors pirating and profiting off of our events are even greater than those examples. We are pleased with the outcome and hopeful it will set a precedent for us and all content creators going forward that stealing is not going to be tolerated.”

The default judgment can be found here (pdf)


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