BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine — Satellite television provider DirecTV is suing a local pub owner who the company says “willfully” broadcast its programming to the public.
The lawsuit seeks damages from Korey Lewis, 38, of Boothbay Harbor, owner of Pier One Pub, also known as Pier One Pizza, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Portland.
DirecTV alleges that Lewis “willfully received and displayed DirecTV satellite programming to the public” without a commercial license. According to the suit, such actions violate federal and state laws.
Court documents are unclear how much DirecTV seeks in damages, but Lewis said Friday that an attorney for the company told him he could settle it for $15,000.
Lewis said he doesn’t know how DirecTV didn’t know he was showing their programming in a pub, since the company installed equipment on several TVs when he opened about a decade ago. Furthermore, he said, technicians have repaired the equipment several times, including one year when a mouse chewed through the wires.
“Never did I try to hide anything from them,” he said. “Honestly, if I’d known, I would have switched over.”
But Robert Mercer, spokesman for DirecTV, said in an email to the Bangor Daily News on Friday evening that Lewis “set up an account at a residential address at least a mile away and across the harbor from the pub. We were not aware of the service at the pub because Mr. Lewis used his residential account to set up service in his bar, so as far as we knew this was a residential account, not commercial … Mr. Lewis knew what he was doing — attempting to avoid paying the higher fees required for the display of programming in a bar or restaurant.”
Doing so, Mercer said, violates the Federal Communications Act.
In September, Lewis said, a representative of the company came to the pub and took photographs.
“Then they sent me a letter stating I am in violation for having DirecTV in my pub without an account for commercial,” he said. “I said, ‘You never told me. Your guys came out and hooked me up! Then their lawyer called me and told me, ‘You can resolve this by paying us $15,000 or we’re going to court.’”
“The lawyer said, ‘We sent you a letter every year saying are you residential or commercial,’” Lewis said. “I pay my bills, I don’t look at what you send me for propaganda.”
Lewis said he called DirecTV to try to switch to a commercial account that day, but was redirected back to the same lawyer. After he hired a lawyer, DirecTV then said he could pay $9,000 all at once to settle the case, Lewis said.
“We’re a small business,” he said. “We barely make it as it is.
“Agreeing to become a legitimate commercial customer does not let him off the hook for misusing our programming and not paying commercial subscription fees,” Mercer said, adding that bar owners need to understand that there are consequences for using pay TV signals without permission.