Indiana Copyright Litigation: J & J Sports Sues Estrella for Unlawful Interception and Broadcast

Hammond, Indiana – A copyright attorney for J & J Sports Productions, Inc., of Campbell, imagesCAVFK9MT.jpgCalifornia filed an intellectual property lawsuit in the Northern District of Indiana alleging that Melissa Estrella a/k/a Melissa Barnett, a/k/a Melissa White of Calumet City, Illinois individually and d/b/a Estrellas Sports Bar, located in Hammond, Indiana, unlawfully intercepted and exhibited the “Ruiz/Hamer” broadcast.

J & J Sports states that it is licensed as a distributor of the “Ruiz/Hamer” broadcast. It has sued Melissa Estrella individually and doing business as Estrellas Sports Bar (“Estrellas”) under the Federal Communications Act and The Cable & Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act.

Specifically, Ms. Estrella has been accused of violating 47 U.S.C. § 605 and 47 U.S.C. § 553 by displaying the “Ruiz/Hamer” broadcast on November 23, 2013 without a commercial license. Regarding the claim under 47 U.S.C. § 553, the complaint alleges that with “with full knowledge that the Broadcast was not to be received and exhibited by entities unauthorized to do so, Defendant … did exhibit the Broadcast … willfully and for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain.”

As the establishment is apparently not a separate legal entity, the only Defendant is Ms. Estrella. The allegations against her include that she had the right and ability to supervise the activities of Estrellas Sports Bar. J & J Sports asserts that those activities included the unlawful interception of its program.

J & J Sports also contends that Ms. Estrella specifically directed the employees of the establishment to unlawfully intercept and broadcast J & J Sports’ program at Estrellas or, if she did not, that the actions of the employees of Estrellas are directly imputable to Ms. Estrella by virtue of her purported ownership of and responsibility for the activities of Estrellas.

J & J Sports also asserts that Ms. Estrella advertised the exhibition of J & J Sports’ program and collected a cover charge of $5 per person on the night of the alleged illegal acts. This accusation, in conjunction with her purported ownership of the establishment, prompted J & J Sports to assert that Ms. Estrella had an obvious and direct financial interest in the activities of Estrellas and received a benefit from the operations of Estrellas on November 23, 2013.

In the complaint, the intellectual property lawyer for J & J Sports asks for injunctive relief. The following counts and requests for redress are also listed:

• Count I: Violation of Title 47 U.S.C. Section 605. For this count, J & J Sports requests (a) statutory penalties for each willful violation in an amount up to $110,000.00 pursuant to Title 47 U.S.C. 605(a), and (b) the recovery of full costs, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, pursuant to Title 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii), or, in the alternative,
• Count II: Violation of Title 47 U.S.C. Section 553. For this count, J & J Sports asks the court for (a) statutory damages for each violation in an amount to $60,000.00 pursuant to Title 47 U.S.C. § 553; (b) the recovery of full costs pursuant to Title 47 U.S.C. § 553 (c)(2)(C).

Practice Tip #1: Among its assertions of wrongdoing, J & J Sports has alleged interception of the Program under 47 U.S.C. § 605, which is a different cause of action from copyright infringement.

Practice Tip #2: When Congress passed the Cable Communication Act, a statute of limitations was not included. Some federal courts have determined that a two-year statute of limitation is appropriate while other federal courts have used a three-year statute of limitations. Unlike some plaintiffs in similar lawsuits, who have filed late enough to risk running afoul of the statute of limitations, J & J Sports filed in a relatively short period of time following the alleged wrongdoing.

Practice Tip #3: Previous similar complaints filed by J & J Sports have also included a count of conversion. That count typically asserted that Defendants’ acts were “willful, malicious, egregious, and intentionally designed to harm Plaintiff J & J Sports” and that, as a result of being deprived of their commercial license fee, J & J Sports had suffered “severe economic distress and great financial loss,” an expansive proposition that we have in the past posited might be difficult to prove. Perhaps those difficulties explain the absence of this count in the current complaint. Counts I and II have also been modified. Previous complaints had asserted these counts as additive, while this complaint lists them in the alternative.

Overhauser Law Offices, the publisher of this website, has represented several hundred persons and businesses accused of infringing satellite signals.

The suit was filed by Julie Cohen Lonstein of Lonstein Law Office, P.C. in Ellenville, New York. The case was assigned to District Judge William C. Lee and Magistrate Judge Paul R. Cherry in the Northern District of Indiana and assigned Case No. 2:14-cv-00171-WLC-PRC.


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