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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

WWF hopes $1.7M lawsuit will slam doors on TV piracy
By JASON BOTCHFORD -- Toronto Sun

The World Wrestling Federation is trying to take 30 Canadian bars down for the count.

WWF Canada slammed the bars with a $1.7-million lawsuit yesterday, claiming the sports bars showed pay-per-view wrestling events this year without paying for them.
WWF Canada president Carl DeMarco


"They are stealing from us, like a pickpocket in a department store, and we're not going to let them get away with it any more," said Carl DeMarco, president of World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Canada.

"This affects our fans and legitimate owners who pay for our product."

The lawsuit claims that bars infringed copyright and trademark laws by showing six pay-per-view events this year, including King of the Ring, Backlash and the Royal Rumble. Some bars even ignored warnings to stop airing the events, said WWF lawyer Patrick Lassaline.

The WWF claims the bars are using illegal satellite feeds by way of hack cards and black boxes to show these big-time events.

"I was in one of these bars on a Sunday night and there were 500 people there for an event," Lassaline said. "How many times do bars get 500 people on a Sunday night?"

The WWF pay-per-view specials cost residential cable subscribers an average of $30 each but commercial establishments must pay according to their capacity.

DeMarco said the cost is usually $10 for every person the bar can accommodate.

Several bar owners contacted by The Toronto Sun yesterday said they had not yet been served with the lawsuit and claimed they never aired pirated events.

OWNERS PROTEST

"No, I don't do that kind of (thing)," said Mike Eminobski, owner of Legacy Restaurant and Nite Spot in Toronto.

The owner of Mississauga's Rosa Lisa, who did not want his name published, also said he was innocent.

Another owner said he wasn't sure what happens in his bar at night. "I have no idea what this is about. I will have to talk with my night manager," said Klaus Bayer, owner of The Westend, a bar in London.

Lassaline said damages between $20,000 and $30,000 will likely be sought against five Alberta bars -- two in Lethbridge and three in Calgary.

King's Head Restaurant and Pub at 15 9116 Macleod Tr., Stavros Pizza and Sports Bar at 9737 Macleod Tr. and unrelated establishment Stavro's Steak House and Lounge at 2002 16 Ave. N.W. were named in the claim.

But owners or management of the local bars said yesterday they were surprised by the suit.

"We've used them and we've paid for them," said Mike Merhi, who owns the Stavro's Steak House. "As far as I know, we buy everything legally through local dealers."

Shiv Rai, owner of Stavros Pizza, said he wasn't "bothered" by the lawsuit, since they hadn't been using the feeds recently. An unidentified representative from the King's Head said they'd heard nothing about the lawsuit.

But Lassaline said their own investigation showed each of the Calgary bars had used the feeds illegally three times since January.

DeMarco said the suit is to stop establishments from stealing the feeds, hurting business at those bars who do pay for it, and angering fans when the illegal, unreliable feeds crash partway through shows.

The WWFE targeted establishments that had been brought to their attention either through fans or partner businesses who use the feeds legally.

The Lethbridge bars named in the court action are the New York Hotel on 13 St., and Bazooka's Billiards and Sports Pub on Mayor Magrath Dr.

Lassaline said the problem has been going on for years but has grown exponentially in the past 10 months.

DeMarco said the WWF launched an investigation after several patrons complained of an illegal feed of the Royal Rumble in January that cut out before the end.

"Our fans are suffering and we won't stand for it," DeMarco said. "And if we find out other bars were doing this, we will add them to the list."

-- with files from Nova Pierson, Calgary Sun


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