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Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Cusi

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 14, 2014

JOE HAND PROMOTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL E. CUSI, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MICHAEL M. ANELLO, District Judge.

This case arises out of an unauthorized exhibition of a pay-per-view Ultimate Fighting Championship event. Plaintiff Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. ("Joe Hand" or "Plaintiff"), the commercial distributor of the program, sued Michael Cusi, Raquel Regno, Raymond Regno, and CGC Brazilian Jui Jitsu, Inc. ("Defendants"), for displaying the event without proper licensing. Before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment on the claims asserted in this action. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all federal causes of action, DENIES Plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment, and DECLINES to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.

BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff Joe Hand is a closed circuit distributor of sports and entertainment programming. Joe Hand purchased and retained the exclusive commercial exhibition licensing rights to " Ultimate Fighting Championship 145: Jon Jones v. Rashad Evans " to be shown on April 21, 2012 (the "Event"). Thereafter, Joe Hand marketed the sub-licensing rights to its commercial customers, including casinos, racetracks, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. On April 21, 2012, Defendants broadcast the Event at their establishment, Stronghold CrossFit & Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ("Stronghold Crossfit"), without receiving the contractual authorization from Joe Hand or paying the fee required to do so. Defendants contend that they lawfully purchased and streamed the event over the internet, and that the establishment functioned as a private residence at the time of the viewing.

On April 18, 2013, Plaintiff Joe Hand filed this action against Defendants, alleging violations of 47 U.S.C. section 553, 47 U.S.C. section 605, California Business and Professions Code section 17000 et seq., and conversion. Defendants now seek summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion for summary judgment should be granted if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The purpose of summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses." Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion, and identifying portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, or affidavits that demonstrate the absence of a triable issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630-31 (9th Cir. 1987).

If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to present specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986). If the motion and supporting materials, including facts considered undisputed, show the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the court may grant the motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3).

DISCUSSION

A. Claims Arising Under 47 U.S.C. §§ 553 & 605

Plaintiff's primary causes of action arise under the Cable Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 553 ("Section 553"), and the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 605 ("Section 605"). A person violates Section 553 when he "intercept[s] or receive[s]... any communications service offered over a cable system" without authorization. 47 U.S.C. § 553(a)(1). Section 605 "prohibits commercial establishments from intercepting and broadcasting to its patrons satellite cable programming." Kingvision Pay-Per-View v. Guzman, Case No. C-09-00217, 2009 WL 1475722, at *2 (N.D. Cal. May 27, 2009). Pursuant to Section 605:

No person not being authorized by the sender shall intercept any radio communication and divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such intercepted communication to any person. 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.

47 U.S.C. § 605(a).

Both Section 605 and Section 553 permit any aggrieved party to bring suit against the violator in federal court. See 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(A); 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(1). Further, both Section 605 and Section 553 are strict liability statutes. See J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. ...


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