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Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe 1

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

October 10, 2013

MALIBU MEDIA, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
DOE 1, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PETER J. MESSITTE, District Judge.

Malibu Media, LLC, has sued Doe 1 for copyright infringement. Doe, pro se, has filed an Answer and Counterclaims. In response, Malibu has filed a Motion to Dismiss Doe's Counterclaims. For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED.

I.

This case is one of the many copyright infringement cases brought by Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC ("Malibu") that are pending in this District. Malibu commenced this particular action on April 19, 2012, by filing a complaint against thirty-four John Doe defendants alleged to have infringed Malibu's copyrights with respect to certain pornographic films. Malibu alleges the infringement occurred by Defendants copying and distributing the copyrighted works using a file-sharing protocol known as BitTorrent. As Judges in this District have explained, BitTorrent technology functions as follows:

BitTorrent facilitates the sharing of large amounts of data across "Peer-to-Peer" networks on the [I]nternet. To begin, an initial user decides to share a file (known as a "seed") with a torrent network. Other users (known as "peers") within the network then connect to the seed file for downloading. Each peer downloads one piece of the seed file at a time. As a piece of the seed file is downloaded, it is typically made available to other peers to download. In other words, every downloader is also an uploader. Thus, as the process continues, peers may receive pieces of the seed file from those who have already downloaded that piece and not necessarily from the initial seeder. This system of multiple pieces of data coming from various peers is called a "swarm." With respect to any particular swarm, an alphanumeric representation (known as a "hash") of the shared file remains the same. A hash is essentially a "forensic digital fingerprint" that identifies a particular copy of a shared file. Through this process, each of the "peers" participating in a given "swarm" exposes his or her Internet Protocol address ("IP address") to the outside world.

Metro Media Entm't, LLC v. Steinruck, 912 F.Supp.2d 344, 347 (D. Md. 2012) (citations omitted).

Typical of its practice in these cases, Malibu filed suit against thirty-four members of the same swarm, and, at the same time, filed a motion to expedite discovery, seeking leave to serve subpoenas on Internet Service Providers ("ISPs") in order to identify subscribers using their IP addresses.

On May 11, 2012, the Court severed all Defendants except Doe 1 from the case, and granted Malibu's request for early discovery. The Court further ordered that all documents containing Doe's identifying information be filed under seal. On August 24, 2012, Malibu filed a sealed Amended Complaint, alleging that the named Defendant copied and distributed three original copyrighted works.

On August 19, 2012, one Defendant Doe, pro se, filed an Answer and Counterclaims under seal. Doe alleges that Malibu "has engaged in a systematic course of action whereby it is using the Federal Courts in order to extort funds from individuals who use the Internet" and that Malibu is a "copyright troll" who filed suit "sole[ly]... to obtain the issuance of subpoenas... in order to determine the identify of the John Does". On or about August 14, 2012, a self-identified representative from Malibu contacted Doe and told him "he was going to be named in a lawsuit about to be filed" and "urged Defendant to settle the matter for $4, 500 and stated that it was less than the cost of hiring an Intellectual Property attorney." In Defendant's view, these actions, as well as filing suit against multiple defendants in order to "evade[] thousands of dollars of filing fees", all of which resulted in "damage[] in his personal life" constitutes abuse of process. Doe further alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress, arguing he "has been damaged in his personal and professional life." Lastly, Doe alleges a claim for "Fraud on the Copyright Office" because Malibu "was not seeking to protect a valid copyright when it made application to the United States Copyright Office", and suggesting that a shell corporation was created in order to buy and register the relevant copyrights.

Malibu responded with the pending Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), also filed under seal, on October 10, 2012. Upon Order of the Court, the parties subsequently filed redacted versions of the same filings, identical except for the redaction of Doe's identity. Doe filed a brief response, stating that its arguments were addressed in its counterclaims. Malibu's reply followed.

The case was stayed on February 28, 2012, pending a hearing before Judges Titus and Grimm of this District to address discovery motions filed by Malibu in what were then thirty-two open cases in the District. Certain decisions relative to the discovery issue were reached by these Judges and have been accepted by other Judges of this District to guide Malibu in its other filings in this District.

II.

"As for the argument that the counterclaim plaintiffs have failed to state claims that entitle them to relief, [t]he purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.'" Harrison v. Grass, 304 F.Supp.2d 710, 712 (D. Md. 2004) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir.1999)). When a party moves to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must evaluate the complaint's sufficiency, viewing all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Philips v. Pitt Cnty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion a complaint must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

A plaintiff proceeding pro se is held to "less stringent standards" than is a lawyer, and the court must construe his claims liberally, no matter how "inartfully pleaded." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nevertheless, even a pro se complaint must meet a minimum threshold of ...


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