Mailbag: Piracy issues

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

It's a sad fact of life on the Internet: People are thieves. A lot of people steal a lot on the Internet.

The overwhelming majority of people would never walk into a department store and swipe a Polo shirt because they like it but believe it costs too much. Far too many, though, see nothing wrong with watching a pay-per-view sporting event on an illegal live stream because they think it costs too much despite the fact that it, too, is theft.

Stealing a pay-per-view is, in fact, worse than swiping something tangible. If you steal a Polo shirt from the local department store, the store's security could manage to get the shirt back before you get to your car and it would thus be unharmed. But if you steal the signal of, say, a pay-per-view UFC event, there is no way to recover that loss.

The UFC's support of the onerous legislation in the Senate, PIPA, though, is not the way to combat what is a very real and exceptionally significant problem, however.

PIPA, or the Protect IP Act, would threaten the existence of the Internet as it operates today.

Lawrence Epstein, the UFC's executive vice president and general counsel, wrote an op-ed column in his hometown Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sunday in which he espoused the company's support for PIPA.

Piracy of its pay-per-view signal is a major issue for the UFC, as well as other mixed martial arts and boxing promoters. The UFC's fan base is younger and, presumably, more Internet savvy than other sports. That's a good thing when the UFC is trying to reach advertisers, who covet the 18-to-34-year-old male demographic that the UFC virtually owns.

But they apparently think it's not so keen when their Internet savvy fans use their know-how to swipe their pay-per-view signal.

In his op-ed piece, Epstein wrote, "One of the most fundamental roles of government is to protect its citizens from theft and fraud." And here, I was thinking it was life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Silly me.

Epstein went on to write that "When it comes to Internet thievery, some want to throw up their hands and admit defeat. Others argue that the Internet is better without rules. Both these arguments are wrong and shortsighted. There is a better way, and it is within our reach."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been leading the push against PIPA and a similar bill in the House, SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act).

Parker Higgins, a spokesman for the EFF, said PIPA would undermine free speech. While he said it "is a little bit hyperbolic" to think that a PIPA violation could spell the end of a giant site such as YouTube, he said that doesn't mean there isn't reason to fear the bill.

"Had SOPA passed five years ago, YouTube wouldn't have been allowed to get to the place where it is," Higgins said. "Viacom came out with a statement which said, 'This isn't against the YouTubes of the world. This is against specific rogue, foreign websites and everyone knows a rogue, foreign website when they see it.'

"But Viacom brought a billion-dollar lawsuit against YouTube [in 2007]. They thought they were a rogue web site. ... We wouldn't want to see a law passed today that makes something as innovative as YouTube illegal."

Despite its lucrative seven-year deal with Fox, the UFC is, as president Dana White said many times, a pay-per-view company. It is unfortunate that a cost of doing business today is having to put up with theft of a pay-per-view signal, but businesses throughout history have had to deal with it.

Department stores have hired security guards, have hidden cameras and put alarms on merchandise in order to make it more difficult to steal. All of that raises the cost of goods for those who would never think of stealing and pay for what they want.

Likewise, the price of pay-per-view is going to rise to keep up with the Internet thieves who pirate the UFC's signal and make it free to thousands of people who would otherwise pay for it.

Many fans dismiss the idea of watching a pay-per-view via a live stream as no big deal, either because they believe the UFC charges too much for its pay-per-views or because they feel the owners have enough money already.

The Nordstrom family has plenty of money, too, but not too many folks want to walk into one of their store and clear out a shelf full of merchandise.

Stealing the pay-per-view signal is wrong. PIPA and SOPA, though, aren't the answers to the problem.

MMA musings
MMA musings

• Melvin Guillard is one of the most talented lightweights in the world, perhaps the most physically gifted. But after watching him lose to Jim Miller Friday in Nashville, Tenn., another fight he probably should have won, it's become all too clear that Guillard isn't going to fulfill that potential any time soon. He makes far too many mistakes, takes far too many risks and acts before he thinks way too often to be taken seriously as championship material.

• After clearly being nervous at the start in his UFC play-by-play debut, Jon Anik settled down on Friday and did a nice job calling the fights on both Fuel and FX. Kenny Florian, the analyst, is a major talent, but he had an off night. He seemed to talk way too much during the action, as if he were trying to help Anik through his debut. Sometimes, Kenny, less is more.

• If heavyweight Pat Barry becomes at least decent at submission defense, he's going to cause a lot of guys a lot of problems. Barry made major strides on Friday, getting out of an arm bar during his stoppage victory over Christian Morecraft.

• Congratulations to Jorge Rivera, a good fighter and an even better man, on his retirement.

• Good idea by Zuffa, the company that owns the UFC and Strikeforce, to force all prospective new fighters to undergo screens for performance-enhancing drugs before they're signed to a contract. Given that most fighters are well aware of how to mask PED use, it's questionable how effective the plan will be, but it's a least a step down the right path.

Readers always write
Readers always write

Fighter pay a non-story

Why are non-fighters so concerned with what the UFC pays? I didn't like what I was paid working for a major fitness company, but I didn't see ESPN knocking on their door or interviewing me. If there aren't fighters lined up complaining, then there likely isn't an issue. Everyone that wants to bash the UFC should check their own backyard. I guarantee ESPN isn't splitting their revenue fairly. Who cares if they aren't? Everyone has a choice as to where they work. As far as a union, that is a terrible idea. The UFC has proven to be more than reasonable with their money and we don't need some Don Fehr coming in trying to ruin a good thing. We would be looking at $500 average ticket prices and $100 pay-per-view prices. The sport cannot support that.

Mike Peters
Fort Worth, Texas

The reason no one was knocking on your door to interview you about your pay, Mike, is that you aren't a celebrity that who helped to generate significant income for your work. Because most UFC fighters are celebrities, it inspires media attention. The fighters take a huge risk by going into the cage (or the ring, in some cases), but it's fair to say they're assuming the risk. It would be wrong if it were a 90-10 situation in favor of ownership, but that doesn't appear to be the case here.

Fighters silent on pay issue

In response to the disagreement between the UFC and ESPN, what do any of the current fighters say or believe? Have any of them actually made complaints? It seems that someone is stirring the pot to "irk" someone or to just get a story. To me, that is shoddy professionalism on ESPN's part. To be fair, wouldn't ESPN present both sides of the story (or all aspects of it)? Can you fill me in if I am missing something?


The goal in reporting on any story is to gather all of the facts and be fair. You'd have to ask ESPN reporters for their reasoning on why they did that piece when they did. But I haven't heard many fighters complaining about their salaries. ESPN said it spoke to many, who were afraid to speak publicly for fear of retribution. My guess is, there are some who are happy and some who are not, just as in all aspects of life.

Is Nick Diaz overrated?

I was looking at Nick Diaz's fight record. Although he hasn't lost a fight in a few years, I don't see any wins over top 10 welterweights in those same years. He beat B.J. Penn, a legend but not a top 10 welterweight, at UFC 137 in October. Do you really feel he is the top contender or even a top five welterweight or is he just benefiting from his trash talk and Georges St. Pierre beating everyone else?

Nick Vasquez Jr.
Tempe, Ariz.

I think he's the real deal and deserving of a high ranking. We'll find out for sure, though, on Feb. 4 when he fights Carlos Condit at UFC 143 in Las Vegas.


"We are not unlike thousands of other companies in this country. We pay people for success and for going above expectations. If a guy performs [in the cage] and he goes above and beyond in helping to promote the event, we'll take care of him much better than we will someone who does not." – UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, on the equity of how the company bonuses its fighters.

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