The UFC harbors grand plans to become a global phenomenon, not just in MMA, but in sports overall. However, being a dedicated UFC fan doesn’t come cheap, requiring an $84.98 ESPN+ subscription in the US plus $64.99 for every PPV event. Prices vary overseas but if fans want to watch every show, costs can prove prohibitively expensive.
This has resulted in a thriving market for pirated UFC events via live streaming sites and torrent platforms. This is something the UFC would like to stamp out and in 2014 the organization went to court in the United States, targeting New York man Steven A. Messina for uploading at least 124 UFC events to torrent sites.
$32m Lawsuit Against UFC Pirate ‘Secludedly’
TorrentFreak first interviewed Messina (known online as ‘Secludedly’) in 2013 to discuss his 60FPS uploads, made to sites like The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents. However, our contacts with him a year later were dominated by the UFC’s lawsuit which demanded statutory damages of $18.6m for copyright infringement, up to $13.64m plus $60,000 for breaches of the Federal Communications Act, plus sundry other damages totaling $32.2m.
Like many of its type, the case never went to trial. Instead, after obtaining a default judgment for a cool $32m, the UFC made an announcement in September 2014 saying the matter was over. Messina reportedly agreed to settle with the UFC and as part of that a public apology was published.
“I apologize to the UFC for any damages incurred as a result of my actions in illegally distributing copyrighted UFC broadcasts. As a result of my confession for piracy of UFC’s protected content, I fully accept the terms of the settlement with the UFC,” Messina said, according to a statement published by the UFC.
Having spoken to Messina several times in the past, this apology sounded somewhat contrived. However, having read many coerced ‘pirate apologies’ over the years, it wasn’t particularly out of the ordinary either. The UFC clearly wanted a ‘head on a pike’ to deter others and they got what they wanted. But now, six years later, this apparent apology is a source of irritation for Messina, who wants to set the record straight.
Messina: I Didn’t Apologise and I am Not Sorry
“I never publicly apologized, nor was I ever sorry,” Messina told TF this week. “I did what I believed was right for the many who couldn’t see these events, and I take pride in that fact.”
Messina admits that he didn’t just pirate UFC events, he also uploaded those from lesser-known organizations, some of whom had rising stars that eventually joined the UFC. He says he wanted those fighters to get recognized, thus attracting eyeballs to the UFC.
“No one got hurt and other people still made money,” Messina says. “If anything, the UFC should have thanked me for my help in creating yet another platform or avenue for these hardworking athletes to get recognized and to help their own corporation grow, as insignificant it may have been. Regardless of what they say, they didn’t lose money. That’s simply an archaic bullshit mindset.”
Messina Says He Paid Nothing to the UFC
The UFC’s 2014 press statement indicated that Messina settled with the UFC. No figures were published but no one really believed that it would be the $32m sanctioned by the court. In addition, Messina’s equipment was ordered to be surrendered to the UFC. According to him, however, none of that happened. He had to pay his lawyer but as for the rest, nothing happened.
“The UFC simply wanted me (or in this case, my legal representative) to sign a contract that would let them release an article of ‘me apologizing’ on FOX Sports’ website. Basically, ‘We’ll drop this if you let us write a bogus story about you to the public’ is what they were saying.
“I didn’t agree to it, nor wanted it done, and after days of declining to agree to the terms, I caved just to get it over with,” he says.
There Was An Apology, But Not From Messina
Messina says that while his lawyer was paid to act on his behalf, he never signed any paperwork and never issued a personal apology. Nevertheless, the text that now appears whenever someone Google’s Messina’s name appears to be the main motivation for him speaking out now. One part of the ‘apology’, detailed below, has him really fired up.
I now realize the harm caused by my actions. It is my hope that I can use this difficult period as a learning experience as I move on with my life. I would also like to tell anyone pirating UFC broadcasts, either through illegal downloading or non-authorized streaming, that it is illegal and not worth the risk.
“Whoever wrote this can kiss my ass,” Messina says.
“If you’re downloading or streaming from anywhere on the internet, then you either don’t have the channel on TV, the money to afford the PPV, or live in a place where it’s not available.
“Are you trying to tell me that people who can barely pay their bills should not be able to show support for your product if they so choose? You should be appreciating that people even WANT to download the product to begin with. Sure, people may not be able to buy the PPV that comes out the day before rent is due, but does that mean they aren’t supporting you?”
Who Caused Harm? Messina or the UFC?
Messina suggests that what he did more than six years ago amounted to a public service, enabling the UFC to grow its business by exposing its events to new audiences. While the UFC will certainly express public reservations about that, there can be little doubt that piracy of UFC events has resulted in more exposure for the sport. However, Messina believes that chasing him down only did damage to the UFC itself.
“You know who caused harm? The UFC did… to themselves. They went after a sick, disabled, young man without a penny to his name, that loves and supports the product. How does that make them look? It’s no wonder they were so desperate to put out that article to FOX Sports of me admitting I ‘did wrong and apologized’,” he says.
“The UFC’s legal team needs to learn about the internet a little more and how it works, but it seems they have some old ass bozos that act like they’re the RIAA, who also suffered from a failed legal ideology.”
Despite the animosity over the ‘fake apology’, Messina says that he learned a lot from the experience of being sued by the UFC. Importantly, he recognizes that it doesn’t matter if people believe in what they are doing, if there are legal ramifications those need to be understood and prepared for.
Messina doesn’t pirate UFC events anymore but says that would be pointless anyway. Plenty of other piracy groups are either live streaming the shows or uploading them to torrents, so pirate consumers are already spoilt for choice. What he does now that he didn’t do back then, however, is pay more attention to online privacy.
“I’ve also learned to take my internet security seriously and not be as cocky like I did back when I was 27 and going through this issue with the UFC. I’m constantly on a VPN. I use a protected, encrypted, private email company to keep my messages secure. I do not use PayPal ever since they betrayed my trust as a consumer,” he concludes.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.