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Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 13, 2020

JOHN DOE subscriber assigned IP address, Defendants.


          Paul D. Borman United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         This is one of the innumerable copyright infringement cases filed by Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC (Malibu) across the nation in the last decade. See In re BitTorrent Adult Film Copyright Infringement Cases, 296 F.R.D. 80, 82 (E.D.N.Y. July 24, 2012) (“These actions are part of a nationwide blizzard of civil actions brought by purveyors of pornographic films alleging copyright infringement by individuals utilizing a computer protocol known as BitTorrent.”).[1] In each case, Malibu claims that a John Doe has used BitTorrent, a “peer-to-peer file transfer protocol used for sharing large amounts of data over the Internet, ” to download, copy, or distribute Malibu's copyrighted movies. See Malibu Media, LLC v. Ricupero, 705 Fed.Appx. 402, 403 (6th Cir. Aug. 28, 2017). This case is no different-according to the Amended Complaint, Defendant John Doe[2] is a “persistent online infringer of Plaintiffs copyrights” who used BitTorrent to download, copy, and distribute copies of thirteen Malibu movies. (ECF No. 15, Amended Complaint, PgID 114.)

         Defendant has not appeared or otherwise defended this action, resulting in the Clerk of Court entering a default on October 16, 2019. (ECF No. 22, Clerk's Entry of Default, PgID 139.) Plaintiff now moves for a default judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). (ECF No. 23, Motion for Default Judgment.) For the following reasons, the Court grants Plaintiff Malibu's Motion.

         II. Facts

         Because a default has been entered, all Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations, except those relating to damages, are deemed admitted. See Antoine v. Atlas Turner, Inc., 66 F.3d 105, 110 (6th Cir. 1995). Thus, the following account of facts is taken from the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 15.)

         Malibu is a California LLC and John Doe is an individual residing in Michigan. (ECF No. 15, Amended Complaint, PgID 112, ¶¶ 8-9.) BitTorrent is a file distribution network that allows users to exchange large files like movies in bits and pieces. (Id. at PgID 112-13, ¶¶ 10-12.) Once a user gets all the pieces of a file, the software uses unique identifiers on the pieces to put it back together into a whole file with its own unique identifier. (Id. at PgID 113, ¶¶ 12-16.)

         Malibu's investigator, IPP International UG, connected with a BitTorrent user with Doe's IP address and downloaded one or more pieces of thirteen different Malibu-copyrighted movies from him. (Id. at PgID 113-14, ¶¶ 17-19.) The investigator then confirmed that the user at Doe's IP address had downloaded a full copy of each of those videos. (Id. at PgID 114, ¶¶ 20-22.) Malibu therefore asserts that “Defendant downloaded, copied, and distributed a complete copy of Plaintiffs works without authorization, ” and that he is “a habitual and persistent BitTorrent user and copyright infringer.” (Id. at PgID 114-15 ¶¶ 23, 25.)

         III. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) a judgment by default may be entered against a defendant who has failed to plead or otherwise defend against an action. In order to obtain judgment by default, the proponent must first request the clerk's entry of default pursuant to Rule 55(a). See United Coin Meter Co., Inc. v. Seaboard Coastline R.R., 705 F.2d 839, 844 (6th Cir. 1983) (detailing the required “sequence of steps” for a default judgment). The entry of a default “conclusively establishes every factual predicate of a claim for relief.” Thomas v. Miller, 489 F.3d 293, 299 (6th Cir. 2007). In other words, all of a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations are deemed admitted. Ford Motor Co. v. Cross, 441 F.Supp.2d 837, 846 (E.D. Mich. 2006).

         Once the clerk enters the default, the party may then file for a default judgment by the clerk or by the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b). Where damages are for an uncertain amount, a party must apply to the Court for a default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1). Although Rule 55(b)(2) does not provide a standard to determine when a party is entitled to a judgment by default, the court must exercise “sound judicial discretion” when determining whether to enter the judgment. Wright & Miller, 10A Federal Practice & Procedure, § 2685 (3d ed. 1998) (collecting cases). The court may consider the following factors: (1) possible prejudice to the plaintiff from the defendant's failure to respond; (2) the merits of the claims; (3) the sufficiency of the complaint; (4) the amount of money at stake; (5) possible disputed material facts; (6) whether the default was due to excusable neglect; and (7) the preference for decisions on the merits. Russell v. City of Farmington Hills, 34 Fed.Appx. 196, 198 (6th Cir. Apr. 29, 2002).

         Once it determines that the party is entitled to a default judgment, the Court may either enter a default judgment in a certain amount, or conduct a hearing to determine the appropriate amount of damages. “Fed. R. Civ. P. 55 does not require a presentation of evidence as a prerequisite to the entry of a default judgment, although it empowers the court to conduct such hearings as it deems necessary and proper to enable it to enter judgment or carry it into effect” Cross, 441 F.Supp.2d at 848. Whatever its form, the District Court's inquiry must be sufficient to “ascertain the amount of damages with reasonable certainty.” Vesligaj v. Peterson, 331 Fed.Appx. 351, 355 (6th Cir. May 11, 2009). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(c), “[a] default judgment must not differ in kind from, or exceed in amount, what is demanded in the pleadings.”

         IV. Analysis

         A default judgment must be both procedurally and substantively fair. Procedurally, “[i]n order to render a valid judgment, a court must have jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties, and must act in a manner consistent with due process.” Cross, 441 F.Supp.2d at 845 (citing Antoine,66 F.3d 105). “Due process requires proper service of process for a court to have jurisdiction to adjudicate the rights of the parties. Therefore, if service was not proper, the court must set aside an entry of default ” OJ. Distrib., Inc. v. Hornell Brewing Co., Inc.,340 F.3d 345, 353 ...

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