Posted On: January 23, 2013 by Ronald V. Miller, Jr.

Interesting Ultimate Fighting Championship Lawsuit

There is a case pending in federal court, Zuffa v. Thomas, that has some interesting copyright infringement implications as well as some interesting "can you file a lawsuit when you are really not sure exactly what your claim is?" issues. Bonus fun: Zuffa, the plaintiff, is the company that owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

UFC apparently has spies that go around and make sure people are not rebroadcasting its fights to large groups. So one of their spies found that the Hotel Charles in southern Maryland was broadcasting the fight to 123 people without purchasing a license to do so.

Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment and they have both been denied. But the judge clearly is concerned that Plaintiff has not yet offered prima facie evidence of a copyright infringement. UFC complains that defendants have not responded to discovery so they don't have the details straight of exactly how they got the fight in the first place. Moreover, they are arguing let's just put two and two together - there is evidence they played the fight and no evidence that they got it legally so a reasonable jury could only conclude that it infringed on their copyright. I'm inclined to agree with UFC on this premise: if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck...

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. What is amazing to me is how little media attention this lawsuit has gotten.


Can't say I disagree with you or Zuffa on this one. Seems they are in the right. However, having been around the MMA guys out here in LA and trying to help a few of the fighters get endorsements over the years, I can tell you that Dana White and Zuffa are making a lot of money off these guys and giving back very little to any of the fighters except for the very top guys. For example, I represented a guy a few years ago that had struggled through the "minor leagues" of fighters for years, finally got his UFC debut and won the fight (receiving "fight of the night" honors). On his next UFC fight, he was paid exactly $3,000 to fight and get his busted in. When I tried to get him endorsement deals, all of the vendors were well aware of what the fighters were being paid and were not willing to even "match" the fight prize fee on their endorsement deals. Damn shame (in my opinion) that guys who train so hard and put their bodies on the line don't reap any of the millions of dollars generated by the sport.

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