Justin.tv scores win against Zuffa
March 23, 2012
Eric Goldman and Techdirt first reported Justin.tv’s victory in prevailing in its Motion to Dismiss certain claims from Zuffa’s Complaint filed in Nevada. While the case remains, the court ruling March 8th did damage to Zuffa’s case.
The lawsuit stems from Justin.tv allowing visitors to its website to view, illegally, UFC 121 which featured Cain Velasquez defeat Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight title.
Justin.tv brought a Motion to Dismiss (filed in Sept 2011) to dismiss portions of Zuffa’s Complaint. The Court ruled March 8th in dismissing the following causes of action:
- Trademark: Zuffa unsuccessfully claimed that Justin.tv infringed on its copyright as its logos were shown without consent during the illegal streaming of UFC 121 on Justin.tv. While the court did not agree with Justin.tv’s argument, it sided with Justin.tv in finding no infringement. The court held that Zuffa’s claims would allow Zuffa to hold copyright claims after it were to expire.
- The “Stealing Cable” Statute: Section 230 of the Communications Act is nicknamed “stealing cable” as most claims under the statute arise out of this.
According to the court’s order, the law has been frequently used to limit suit against websites for alleged defamatory comments or reviews created by their users. The statute has been applied in other instances but the court does not get into the actual claim. In dismissing Zuffa’s claim under section 230, the court acknowledges in a footnote the policy reason for dismissal. The Court hypothesizes a scenario in which the floodgates of litigation would open up due in cloud computing.
Via court order:
Zuffa argues that Justin.tv’s mere receipt of its users’ UFC video streams creates liability under the Communications Act. Logically, if the Court were to allow claims such as these, 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 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, WindowsPhone, etc. The iPhone then automatically uploads that video to one of dozens of cloud storage systems such asApple’s iCloud. The Court refuses to find that Apple (or Microsoft, etc.) would be liable under theCommunications Act for merely receiving and storing this data under the Communications Act. Yet, Zuffa arguesfor 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 effectof the statute in this manner
In addition to the court’s ruling, Zuffa stipulated to dismiss its cause of action for Deceptive Trade Practices under Nevada law. No discussion was needed.
The court ruling is a blow to Zuffa’s legal strategy. While Zuffa still has causes of action against Justin.tv, its novel approach to combating online piracy was diffused by the court. Zuffa could still prevail against Justin.tv but the court’s ruling damages future intellectual property claims it may have against illegal streaming sites.