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Malibu Media, LLC v. Redacted

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 11, 2016

MALIBU MEDIA, LLC
v.
REDACTED

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC (“Plaintiff” or “Malibu”) filed this action for copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq. against Defendant on March 17, 2015. Presently pending and ready for resolution is Plaintiff’s motion for entry of default judgment. (ECF No. 29). The court now rules, no hearing deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, a California-based company d/b/a X-Art.com, alleges Defendant violated the United States Copyright Act of 1976 (“Copyright Act”) by using the BitTorrent file distribution network to distribute adult pornographic films subject to copyrights held by Plaintiff. (See ECF No. 12, at 1-2).

         BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing system that allows users to interact with one another to distribute large files, including digital movie files. (See Id. at 2-3). Individuals often use BitTorrent to obtain and circulate infringed copyright content. (ECF Nos. 29-2, at 6; 29-4). The system allows users to distribute an entire file by sending small “bits” individually. Plaintiff alleges that its investigator, IPP International UG, downloaded “bits” of 16 of Plaintiff’s copyrighted films from Defendant’s Internet Protocol address (“IP address”). (ECF Nos. 12, at 3-4; 12-1). Those downloads are the basis for this claim.

         Initially, Plaintiff identified Defendant only by an IP address assigned to a customer on a specific date by an Internet Service Provider (“ISP”). Accordingly, Plaintiff moved to expedite discovery and serve a third-party subpoena on the ISP to obtain the identity of Defendant prior to a Rule 26(f) conference. The court granted the motion subject to conditions and limitations dictated by the sensitive nature of the action and the uncertainty surrounding the specificity of IP addresses. (ECF No. 6). Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint against Defendant, to which Defendant has not responded. (ECF No. 12). The clerk entered a default (ECF No. 27), and Plaintiff then filed the pending motion for default judgment seeking an award of statutory damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees and costs (ECF No. 29).

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), “[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party’s default.” A defendant’s default does not automatically entitle the plaintiff to entry of a default judgment; rather, that decision is left to the discretion of the court. See Lewis v. Lynn, 236 F.3d 766, 767 (5th Cir. 2001). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has a “strong policy” that “cases be decided on their merits, ” Dow v. Jones, 232 F.Supp.2d 491, 494 (D.Md. 2002) (citing United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993)), but default judgment may be appropriate where a party is unresponsive, see S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D.Md. 2005) (citing Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C.Cir. 1980)).

         “Upon [entry of] default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint as to liability are taken as true, but the allegations as to damages are not.” Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d at 422. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(c) limits the type of judgment that may be entered based on a party’s default: “A default judgment must not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings.” Thus, where a complaint specifies the amount of damages sought, the plaintiff is limited to entry of a default judgment in that amount. “[C]ourts have generally held that a default judgment cannot award additional damages . . . because the defendant could not reasonably have expected that his damages would exceed that amount.” In re Genesys Data Technologies, Inc., 204 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2000). While the court may hold a hearing to consider evidence as to damages, it is not required to do so; it may rely instead on “detailed affidavits or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum.” Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5thCir. 1979)).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff moves for default judgment against Defendant for direct copyright infringement and seeks an award of statutory damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees and costs.

         To establish copyright infringement liability, a plaintiff must prove two elements: (1) ownership of the copyright; and (2) copying of original constituent elements by the alleged defendant. 17 U.S.C. § 501(a); see also Feist Publ’ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991). Plaintiff has met its burden through its pleadings by alleging it owns the 16 copyrights that Defendant obtained and distributed through BitTorrent. (ECF No. 12, at 3-5). Exhibit B of the amended complaint supports Plaintiff’s assertion of ownership over the 16 copyrights, and Exhibit A supports its assertion that those copyrights were downloaded, copied, and distributed from Defendant’s IP address using BitTorrent. (ECF Nos. 12-1; 12-2).

         Because the court takes the well-pleaded allegations in a complaint as true upon entry of default, Plaintiff has established Defendant’s liability for copyright infringement by default. See Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780. Accordingly, only questions of the appropriate relief remain.

         A. ...


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