Justin.tv Wins Partial Dismissal of UFC Lawsuit, Case Still Ongoing

Scott Cunningham, Getty Images

Justin.tv, the online live video streaming service, won a partial dismissal of a lawsuit Zuffa, LLC (the parent company of the UFC) brought against them for what Zuffa claimed were illegal broadcasts of UFC 121.

Justin.tv filed a motion to dismiss Zuffa's trademark claims because they argue they 'improperly duplicate their copyright claims.' While Justin.tv was able to win on some counts, the court found Zuffa can't use trademark law to go after copyright violations, except what is 'inherent to the broadcast'. The court acknowledged the Octagon is inherent to the broadcast and thus not in play for the trademark claims, but ruled that something like the graphic overlay of the UFC logo could be inherent to the broadcast. That is an issue for the court to address as the case proceeds, which means it could not be dismissed at the outset.

Zuffa argued Justin.tv was liable for trademark violations because items like UFC logos were featured on the broadcasts without express contest of Zuffa. The court disagreed with part of Zuffa's claims. They noted were Zuffa granted the claims they were arguing for related to those matters inherent to the broadcast, "Zuffa would possess a mutant-copyright or perpetual copyright because nobody would ever be able to copy the video and display it regardless of whether the copyright had entered the public domain."

In addition to stopping trademark claims related to matters inherent to the broadcast, Justin.tv was also successful in getting portions of the lawsuit tossed out related to what is commonly known as 'stealing cable'.

Justin.tv's motion to dismiss succeeded on these counts because the court underscored it was not Justin.tv itself that was receiving the broadcast (Zuffa actually does not disagree). Under the Communications Act which Zuffa used to bring the lawsuit on these specific claims, the court noted the law does not apply (only copyright law does). While it is true Justin.tv has a legal responsibility to police what third-party users feed in, the specific argument Zuffa used to bring the charges was found to be inapplicable.

In it's statement regarding the dismissal of these claims, the court also noted third party sites that allow for users to upload content are not liable in this regard across a host of platforms.

"If the Court were to allow claims such as these," the court's decision stated, "it would have to allow similar Communications Act claims against scores of "cloud computing" service providers such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon.com, Dropbox, Box.net, and others because Jusint.tv’s [sic] particular streaming service would be irrelevant. As an example, say a person took a snippet (or longer) of video of a UFC match being broadcast on their television with their iPhone, Windows Phone, etc. The iPhone then automatically uploads that video to one of dozens of cloud storage systems such as Apple’s iCloud. The Court refuses to find that Apple (or Microsoft, etc.) would be liable under the Communications Act for merely receiving and storing this data under the Communications Act."

"Yet, Zuffa argues for exactly this result when it argues that Justin.tv’s mere receipt of this video stream makes Justin.tv liable. In passing the Communications Act, Congress did not intend such a result, and this Court will not broaden the effect of the statute in this manner."

Those trademark claims dealing with matters not inherent to the broadcast as well as copyright claims still have to be addressed by the court. There is no time frame regarding when they will be adjudicated.

Read the court's decision related to these matters below.

84542938-Zuffa-v-Justin-Motion-to-Dismiss-Order

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