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Intellectual Property

Protecting pay-per-view: after the event

In the final instalment of a two-part series, Toronto intellectual property lawyer Kevin Fisher explores what happens during and after a pay-per-view event.

Anti-piracy efforts extend well beyond the date of a major pay-per-view (PPV) event, Toronto intellectual property lawyer Kevin Fisher tells

Fisher, partner with Gardiner Roberts LLP, says commercial rightsholders are always looking ahead to their next big event, which gives them an incentive to demonstrate the integrity of past ones to investors.

“You need to do all that you can in the interests of customer service and the whole apparatus,” he says. “If everyone’s stealing, then the law of diminishing returns takes hold. If you can’t get paid for these events, then you’re essentially going to stop putting them on.”

Fisher recently acted for the company with commercial rights for two of the biggest PPV events in sports history — last year’s boxing match between unbeaten world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather and outspoken mixed-martial artist Conor McGregor, followed by McGregor’s return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for his controversial defeat by Khabib Nurmagomedov.

 “We are still in the process of dealing with the piracy of the Mayweather v. McGregor fight more than a year later,” says Fisher, who adds that his client is hopeful of landing the rights to Mayweather’s rematch with legendary multi-weight champion Manny Pacquaio, as well as a touted future bout between Mayweather and Nurmagomedov.

Still, he says the night of a major PPV show is a busy time for rightsholders as they chase down rogue streams of the action.

“In real time, the focus is on the notice-and-takedown process, which the UFC can do directly,” Fisher says. “It’s more difficult when you’re dealing with non-North American or offshore operators, who are less likely to respond.”

During almost two decades as an intellectual property lawyer, he has seen the modus operandi of pirates shift significantly in line with technological advances.

“When I first started, it was almost entirely via stolen satellite signals,” Fisher says. “While we still have that kind of piracy, these days the vast majority occurs through software or android media boxes which have been altered in some way to access infringing material.

“We have to evolve with it and try to stay ahead of the different methods for getting around paying legitimate rightsholders for their products,” he adds.

Once the PPV event is complete, Fisher’s focus turns to cracking down on commercial establishments who exhibited it without the proper licence.

Private investigators dispatched to various venues across the country return video evidence of infringement, laying the groundwork for legal action as well as potential injunctions preventing them from exhibiting future events illegally.  

Fisher says the purpose of the litigation is mainly deterrent.

“It’s not a profit-maker by any means because you’re never going to get the kinds of damage awards in Canada that you might in other jurisdictions,” he explains. “In fact, we’re lucky if we break even but we mostly aim to recover the cost of policing rights, and view it as part of the business of protecting the entire model.”  

To read part one where Fisher tackled preparations before the event, click here.

To Read More Kevin Fisher Posts Click Here
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