TV Programming Distributor Sues Pizzeria for Showing Soccer Game Without License

A lawsuit filed in the Central District of California claims that a Culver City eatery illegally broadcast a soccer game between the Brazilian and Bolivian national teams on Oct. 9, 2020. According to Tuesday’s complaint,  the plaintiff, Innovative Sports Management Inc., doing business as Integrated Sports Media (ISM), was granted the sole nationwide commercial distribution of the match, including interviews and commentary.

The filing names the restaurant and two controlling members/managers as defendants in the suit. ISM, a commercial distributor and licensor of sporting events, alleges that after securing exclusive distributorship, it entered into sublicensing agreements with various commercial entities including some in California who would publicly exhibit the match at their respective commercial establishments.

The complaint explains that the game originated via satellite uplink and was subsequently re-transmitted to cable systems and satellite companies then to ISM’s sublicensees. Bella Vista Brazilian Gourmet Pizza was not a bona fide sublicensee however, and instead intercepted and displayed the match with no authorization.

The complaint sets forth four claims for relief, including under 47 U.S.C. 605 of the Communications Act for “unauthorized interception, reception, publication, exhibition, divulgence, display, and/or exhibition by each of the Defendants … done willfully and for purposes of direct and/or indirect commercial advantage and/or private financial gain.” The lawsuit also makes a claim under the Cable & Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, one for conversion, and one for violation of California’s unfair competition law.

ISM seeks statutory damages for violation of the two federal laws in the amount of $160,000 per defendant, the repayment of ill-gotten gains, punitive damages, injunctive relief, and an award of its reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. ISM is represented by the Law Offices of Thomas P. Riley P.C.