United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions,
Inc.'s (“J&J”) motion for default
judgment against Defendants LaCasa Del Mofongo LLC
(“LaCasa”) and Domingo Manana
(“Manana”), seeking money damages. ECF No. 9. The
issues are fully briefed, and the Court now rules pursuant to
Local Rule 105.6 as no hearing is necessary. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiff's motion for
case involves alleged violations of the Communications Act of
1934 arising from the unlicensed televised exhibition of a
boxing match. 47 U.S.C. § 605. J&J, a distributor of
sports and entertainment programming, avers that it held
exclusive commercial distribution rights to the Floyd
Mayweather, Jr. v. Manny Pacquiao Championship Fight Program
(the “Program”), which took place on May 2, 2015.
ECF Nos. 1 ¶15. J&J had entered into sublicensing
agreements with various commercial establishments such as
bars and restaurants in which J&J granted the rights to
broadcast the Program. Id. ¶16. Defendants had
no such sublicensing agreement with J&J. ECF No. 9-4 at
Green, a private investigator hired by J&J, declared via
sworn affidavit to having observed the Program's
broadcast while at LaCasa on May 2, 2015. ECF No. 1-1 at 2.
Green did not have to pay a cover charge to enter LaCasa, and
during Green's fifteen-minute stay, Green saw about
twenty-one to twenty-four customers at LaCasa, which has an
estimated maximum capacity of about fifty persons.
Id. at 2-3. Green also saw thirteen televisions at
LaCasa. Id. at 2. According to J&J's rate
card for the Program, had J&J entered into a sublicensing
agreement with LaCasa, LaCasa would have owed J&J $3, 000
based on a “minimum capacity” of 1-100 persons.
ECF No. 9-8.
1, 2018, J&J filed suit against Defendants, alleging
violations of the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C.
§ 605, and seeking a total of $170, 000 in damages. ECF
No. 1. Defendants Manana and LaCasa were properly served on
May 10, 2018, and May 13, 2018, respectively. ECF Nos. 4, 5.
Defendants failed to respond to or otherwise contest
J&J's claims. ECF No. 9-4 at 2. J&J therefore
requested entry of default, which the clerk entered on August
20, 2018. ECF No. 8. On August 21, 2018, J&J sent
Defendants notice of the entry of default by certified mail,
to which Defendants did not respond. ECF No. 9-1. J&J now
moves for default judgment, requesting $3, 000 in statutory
damages, $9, 000 in enhanced damages, and $2, 245 in
attorneys' fees and costs. ECF No. 9.
Standard of Review
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a).
Thereafter, the court may enter default judgment at
J&J's request and with notice to the defaulting
party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). J&J, however, is not
automatically entitled to default judgment simply because the
defendant has not responded. Rather, entry of default
judgment is left to the sound discretion of the court.
See, e.g., Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. Jai
Shree Navdurga, LLC, DKC 11-2893, 2012 WL
5995248, at *1 (D. Md. Nov. 29, 2012); see also Choice
Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. Austin Area Hospitality, Inc.,
TDC 15-0516, 2015 WL 6123523, at *1 (D. Md. Oct. 14, 2015).
Although the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit has announced a “strong policy” in favor
of deciding cases on their merits, United States v.
Schaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993), a
default judgment may be appropriate when a party is
unresponsive. 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.
Court finds that default judgment is proper. Section 605 of
the Communications Act prohibits the unauthorized
interception or receipt of certain radio communications,
including digital satellite television transmissions. 47
U.S.C. § 605; see also J & J Sports Prods., Inc.
v. Mayreal II, LLC, 849 F.Supp.2d 586, 588 n.3 (D. Md.
2012). Accepting as true the Complaint allegations,
Defendants unlawfully intercepted and displayed the Program
at LaCasa without J&J's authorization on May 2, 2015.
Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Md. Food & Entm't,
LLC, No. CCB-11-3272, 2012 WL 5879127, at *4 (D. Md.
Nov. 19, 2012). Accordingly, J&J has established
Defendants' liability under § 605. Id.
regard to damages, 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i) allows
J&J to recover either actual damages or statutory damages
for the unauthorized interception and distribution of radio
communications. J&J seeks statutory damages, and in
support, relies on investigator Green's observations and
the absence of a sublicensing agreement with Defendants
authorizing exhibition of the Program. Statutory damages
should account for an approximation of the sum lost to
Plaintiff due to the violation. J & J Sports Prods.
v. Mumford, No. DKC-10-2967, 2012 WL 6093897, at *2 (D.
Md. Dec. 6, 2012). “Consistent with prior case law in
this District, the Court will accept the cost to purchase the
Program as the direct loss to J & J Sports
Productions.” J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. El
Rodeo Restaurant, LLC. No. PJM-15-172, 2015 WL
3441995, at *2 (D. Md. May 26, 2015). J&J approximates
the rate it would have charged Defendants to broadcast the
Program, and submits a rate card to that effect to support
its requested $3, 000. ECF Nos. 9 at 1, 1-1 at 11. Statutory
damages in the amount of $3, 000 is appropriate and the Court
will award it.
addition to statutory damages, J&J requests enhanced
damages of $9, 000. Section 605(e)(3)(C)(ii) authorizes
enhanced damages of up to $100, 000 where “the
violation was committed willfully and for the purposes of
direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial
gain . . . .” ECF No. 9 at 2. To determine whether
enhanced damages is appropriate, courts consider any evidence
of defendant's willfulness, whether defendant engaged in
repeated violations over an extended period of time, the
significance of the unlawful monetary gains, and whether
defendant advertised the broadcast or charged admission or
premiums for food and drinks. J&J Sports Prods., Inc.
v. El Rodeo Restaurant, No. PJM 15-172, 2015 WL 3441995,
at *3 (D. Md. May 26, 2015).
the Court can easily conclude that the Defendant's
interception of the Program was willful. ECF No. 1 ¶18.
After all, “signals do not descramble spontaneously,
nor do television sets connect themselves to cable
distribution systems.” J & J Sports Prods.,
Inc. v. Castro Corp., No. 11-00188-AW, 2011 WL 5244440,
at *4 (D. Md. Nov. 1, 2011) (quoting Time Warner Cable v.
Googies Luncheonette, Inc., 77 F.Supp.2d 485, 490
(S.D.N.Y. 1999)). However, no evidence exists that Defendants
realized significant financial profit from broadcasting the
Program or had committed any other such violation
before or since the broadcast of the Program. In short,
J&J has failed to demonstrate that enhanced damages are
appropriate. The Court therefore denies J&J's
is entitled, however, to costs and reasonable attorneys'
fees as the prevailing party in this action. See 47
U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii). “The party seeking
fees bears the burden of proving the reasonableness of the
amount sought.” J & J Sports Prods. v.
Mumford, No. DKC-10-2967, 2013 WL 210623, at *2 (citing
Robinson v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 560 F.3d 235,
243-44 (4th Cir. 2009)). J&J has submitted a detailed
affidavit and a statement of costs and fees totaling $2,
245.00. See ECF Nos. 9-9, 9-10, 9-11. The Court
finds that this amount is reasonable because the hours