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Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

February 26, 2015

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Malibu Media, LLC ("Malibu Media") sued John Doe[1] for copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. Pending is the Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, for a more definite statement, or to quash or stay the subpoena. ECF No. 8. For the following reasons, the Defendant's motion will be denied.

I. Background[2]

Malibu Media, d/b/a X-Art.com, owns various copyrighted adult movies (the "copyrights-in-suit"). ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 3, 8, 32.[3] From March 2013 to February 2014, the Defendant used a file distribution network called BitTorrent to illegally obtain Malibu Media's copyrighted movies. Id. ¶¶ 20-21, 33-34; ECF No. 1-1. BitTorrent is a common peer-to-peer file sharing system used to distribute, inter alia, digital movie files. ECF No. 1 ¶ 11. BitTorrent enables distribution by breaking large files into small pieces called "bits." Id. ¶ 13. BitTorrent users exchange small bits with each other; after a user receives all of a media file's bits, BitTorrent software reassembles the bits so that the file may be opened. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.

Each bit "is assigned a unique cryptographic hash value, " called a "bit hash, " which "acts as that bit's unique digital fingerprint." Id. ¶¶ 15-16. BitTorrent relies on cryptographic hash values to properly route each bit as users share files. Id. ¶ 16.

Each "digital media file also has a unique cryptographic hash value, " called a "file hash, " which "acts as a digital fingerprint identifying the digital media file, " such as a movie. Id. ¶ 17. BitTorrent relies on file hashes to ensure "that the file is complete and accurate." Id. Malibu Media's investigator, IPP International UG ("IPP"), "established a direct TCP/IP[4] connection with the Defendant's IP address." Id. ¶ 18. IPP "downloaded from [the] Defendant one or more bits" of 23 digital movie files identified by unique file hashes. Id. ¶¶ 19, 21; see also ECF No. 1-1 (list of 23 file hashes). IPP verified that each file hash that it connected with the Defendant's IP address "correlates to a copyrighted movie owned by [Malibu Media]." ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 21-23. The Defendant ultimately "downloaded, copied, and distributed a complete copy of [Malibu Media's] movies without authorization." ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 20, 22, 33, 34.

The "Defendant is a persistent BitTorrent user"; in addition to the 23 file hashes associated with Malibu Media, from August 2012 to February 2014, the Defendant allegedly "engaged in BitTorrent transactions associated with 2034 [third party] files." Id. ¶¶ 25, 27; ECF No. 1-2.

On March 12, 2014, Malibu Media filed this copyright infringement suit. ECF No. 1.[5] On May 8, 2014, the Defendant moved to dismiss, or for a more definite statement, or to quash the subpoena. ECF No. 8. On June 3, 2014, Malibu Media opposed the motion. ECF No. 12.[6]

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standards

1. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), an action may be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint, but does not "resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006).

The Court bears in mind that Rule 8(a)(2) requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l, Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001). Although Rule 8's notice-pleading requirements are "not onerous, " the plaintiff must allege facts that support each element of the claim advanced. Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 764-65 (4th Cir. 2003). These facts must be sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

This requires that the plaintiff do more than "plead[] facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability;'" the facts pled must "allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ( quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). The complaint must not only allege but also "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Id. at 679 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Whe[n] the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of ...


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