Ultimate Fighting Championship has a message for a 27-year-old Staten Island, N.Y., man and any other person or business suspected of pirating UFC’s pay-per-view programming and copyrighted content.
You will be hearing from UFC and its lawyers.
UFC, the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts fight show promotion and media juggernaut that generates tens of millions of dollars from annual pay-per-view sales, has ratcheted up its anti-piracy efforts by hiring an expert from NBC Universal to serve as a vital member of its anti-piracy team.
Clint Cox, UFC director of content protection hired in November, is sniffing out illegal Internet streaming of UFC fight events, while also looking out for bars and restaurants that show UFC events without paying for the programming.
UFC made a big splash by recently suing a Staten Island man for allegedly uploading and distributing UFC pay-per-view content and trying to generate revenue from the fights.
UFC is cracking down on Internet pirates who steal content because pay-per-view is UFC’s financial lifeblood. Thanks, in part, to its PPV income, UFC is valued at $2 billion, more than most NFL or Major League baseball teams.
In its lawsuit filed in federal court in New York against Steven Messina, 27, of Staten Island, UFC’s parent company, Zuffa LLC, accuses Messina of operating under the “Secludely” profile name to upload 141 UFC pay-per-view events to websites such as Piratebay. UFC said Messina lives with his parents.
UFC targeted Messina from the dozens of content pirates because of his brazenness in stealing content, said Kirk Hendrick, UFC chief legal officer.
Messina proclaims he is the “Provider of best MMA &Boxing rips online!” UFC argued in its lawsuit filed by its law firm, Lonstein Law Office in Ellenville, N.Y.
“He was asking for financial support to continue his illegal activities,” Hendrick said during an interview at UFC headquarters Thursday.
Messina could not be reached for comment, and he has not responded to the lawsuit filed April 29.
Hendrick said the time for Messina to respond to the court action has passed, and UFC will seek a default in federal court in hopes of drawing a permanent injunction against him.
During a live fight show like UFC 173 on Saturday, there are as many as 120 to 200 illegal live streams of the fight show, with the content disseminated to thousands of websites, Cox said.
In addition, Cox estimated there are 500 annual cases of businesses such as bars and restaurants showing UFC pay-per-view fight shows without paying the PPV charge.
The cost for a bar to show UFC fights can be anywhere from hundreds of dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of the business. Businesses that show pay-per-view content without paying for it while also charging people to watch the fights particularly rankle UFC officials.
“There’s a lot of money in piracy,” Cox said.
UFC’s champion fighters also lose money from PPV theft because the champs get a cut of the PPV revenue, Hendrick said.
Cox said he deploys “take-down tools” to stop illegal streaming of UFC content, while he contacts website host providers to stop sites from illegally showing UFC programming.
In Messina’s case, UFC would welcome the chance to have a chat with the Staten Island man.
“We’d be willing to talk with him,” Hendrick said.
Contact reporter Alan Snel at email@example.com or 702-387-5273. Follow @BicycleManSnel on Twitter.