Cable networks HBO and Showtime won a victory for antipiracy efforts on April 30, two days before the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Anticipating certain websites would stream the fight for free, the fight was priced at $89 to $100 on pay-per-view, the cable companies sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to enjoin websites from infringing their copyright of the coverage of the fight. Judge Wu granted their request, concluding that the threatened infringement would take away the cablers’ right of first transmission and publication of a highly valuable live event, would interfere with their relationships with third parties, would likely damage their goodwill among consumers, and would deprive them of revenue that was difficult or impossible to calculate.
The cable companies presented strong evidence that the anticipated infringement would occur. Netizens stumbling upon websites boxinghd.net and sportship.org on April 28 would have seen a photo of the two boxers, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, along with a “click here” to watch the fight. The cable companies used screen shots of this offer as evidence, and also demonstrated that the infringing websites had offered unauthorized streams of prior boxing matches. By 10:30 on April 29, the offer of free streaming of the Mayweather-Pacquiao match was removed from the defendant websites, suggesting they had received the cablers’ Advance Notice of Potential Infringement. However, to make sure these websites did not put up links to stream the fight on May 2 (the day of the fight), HBO and Showtime, along with the boxers’ promoting companies, Mayweather Promotions and Top Rank, sought a TRO.
Temporary restraining orders are short-term, pre-trial injunctions. They establish and freeze the setting until a preliminary injunction hearing, and can be secured with short notice. They are available ex parte (meaning not all parties need to be present) in the case of immediate and irreparable injury, and with efforts to notify the defendants, as was the case here.
What do plaintiffs need to show in order to get a TRO? They must establish they will suffer irreparable harm if the order is not issued at that time. The harm must be fairly imminent; otherwise, the issue could wait. Courts may balance the equities, considering the hardship to defendants. In this case, it was apparent that infringing websites would not suffer any hardship by taking down offers of free streaming since they had already removed the offers on April 29.
Judge Wu also noted that the injunction was in the public interest here because it would effectuate the purpose of the Copyright Act: to protect intellectual property rights and incentivize creation.
For information on how to obtain a TRO related to intellectual property infringement, contact the experienced Orange County intellectual property lawyers at MYBE Law today.