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The Thompsons Film, LLC v. Athias

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

October 31, 2014

WILLIAM ATHIAS, et al., Defendants.


THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT is Plaintiff's Renewed Motion for Default Judgment and Permanent Injunctions Against Defendants Kappen, Hayes, Urena and Maxwell (ECF No. 115). This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the motion and the record and files herein and is fully informed.


This is an action concerning alleged copyright infringement of a motion picture. Plaintiff, The Thompsons Film, LLC, is a limited liability company that produced the motion picture at issue in this matter, The Thompsons. The Thompsons has been registered with the United States Copyright Office by the author, The Thompsons Film, LLC, Registration No. PAu X-XXX-XXX. Defendants are identified as having at least one of the following roles: 1) BitTorrent users or peers whose computers are collectively interconnected and used for illegally copying and distributing Plaintiff's motion picture; 2) contributing to the infringement of Plaintiff's copyright by others; 3) permitting, facilitating, and/or promoting the use of the internet access identified by the IP address for the infringing of Plaintiff's exclusive rights under the Copyright Act by others.

BitTorrent is an interactive peer-to-peer file transfer technology protocol. Peer-to-peer networks, in their most common form, are computer systems enabling users to make files stored on each user's computer available for copying by other users, to search for files stored on other users' computers, and to transfer exact copies of the files from one computer to another via the internet. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff has recorded each Defendant identified (through his or her IP address) as actually copying and publishing Plaintiff's motion picture via BitTorrent, as Plaintiff's investigator has downloaded the motion picture from each Defendant. Plaintiff alleges that, upon information and belief, each Defendant was a willing and knowing participant in the file transfer "swarm" at issue and engaged in such participation for the purpose of infringing Plaintiff's copyright.

Plaintiff sued Defendants, claiming copyright infringement, contributory infringement, and indirect infringement of copyright. Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint requests damages of $30, 000 from each Defendant pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(1) for its claims of infringement and contributory infringement, and, in the alternative, damages of not more than the statutory minimum of $750.00 on its indirect infringement claim. Plaintiff also requests entry of permanent injunctions enjoining each Defendant from directly, contributorily, or indirectly infringing Plaintiff's rights in Plaintiff's motion picture, and reasonable costs and attorney fees.

The Clerk of Court has entered orders of default for all Defendants named in the instant motion. Despite being properly served, the non-appearing Defendants have not filed an answer or moved to set aside their default. In response, Plaintiff moved for default judgment and permanent injunctions against Defendants Hayes, Kappen, Maxwell, and Urena. This Court subsequently denied Plaintiff's motion with leave to renew. In its Order, this Court directed Plaintiff to brief and provide evidence supporting the amount of damages against each defaulting Defendant separately.

Plaintiff now renews its motion for default judgment and permanent injunctions seeking the relief requested in its First Amended Complaint.


A. Default Judgment

Motions for entry of default judgment are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b). Rule 55(b)(1) provides that the Clerk of Court may enter default judgment when the plaintiff's claim "is for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1). When the value of the claim cannot be readily determined, or when the claim is for non-monetary relief, the plaintiff must move the court for entry of default judgment. Id. at 55(b)(2). In such circumstances, the court has broad discretion to marshal any evidence necessary in order to calculate an appropriate award. See id. at 55(b)(2)(A)-(D). At the default judgment stage, well-pleaded factual allegations are considered admitted and are sufficient to establish a defendant's liability, but allegations regarding the amount of damages must be proven. Geddes v. United Fin. Group, 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977); Microsoft Corp. v. Lopez, 2009 WL 959219 (W.D.Wash. 2009). The court must ensure that the amount of damages is reasonable and demonstrated by the evidence. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b); Getty Images (US), Inc. v. Virtual Clinics, 2014 WL 358412 (W.D.Wash. 2014).

The entry of default judgment under Rule 55(b) is "an extreme measure." Cmty. Dental Servs. v. Tani, 282 F.3d 1164, 1170 (9th Cir. 2002). "As a general rule, default judgments are disfavored; cases should be decided upon their merits whenever reasonably possible." Westchester Fire Ins. Co. v. Mendez, 585 F.3d 1183, 1189 (9th Cir. 2009). In determining whether to enter default judgment, a court should consider the following factors: "(1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff; (2) the merits of the plaintiff's substantive claim; (3) the sufficiency of the complaint; (4) the sum of money at stake in the action; (5) the possibility of a dispute concerning material facts; (6) whether the default was due to excusable neglect; and (7) the strong policy underlying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure favoring decisions on the merits." Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72; see also United States v. VanDenburgh, 249 F.Appx. 664, 665 (2007).

The Court considers each of the factors in turn.

1. Possibility of Prejudice to Plaintiff

Despite having been properly served, the non-appearing Defendants have failed to plead or otherwise defend. As a result, Plaintiff's claims against them cannot move forward on the merits, and Plaintiff's ability to obtain effective relief has been prejudiced. This factor weighs in favor of entering default judgment.

2. Merits of Plaintiff's Substantive Claims

Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint alleges copyright infringement, contributory infringement, and indirect infringement of copyright for Defendants' alleged participation in a BitTorrent "swarm." Despite receiving notice of Plaintiff's allegations of infringement, the non-appearing Defendants have failed to plead or otherwise defend. This factor weighs in favor default judgment.

3. Sufficiency of the Complaint

The Court finds that the First Amended Complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted in that it is grounded in a cognizable legal theory and alleges sufficient facts to support that theory. This factor weighs in favor of entering default judgment.

4. Sum of Money at Stake

Plaintiff argues that because the admitted facts in this case dictate that each Defendant willfully infringed Plaintiff's registered copyright, it is entitled to enhanced statutory damages. ECF No. 115 at 5-6. The Copyright Act provides a statutory maximum for non-willful infringement of $30, 000 and authorizes a court to impose statutory damages for willful infringement up to $150, 000 per infringed work. 17 U.S.C. § 504(c). Accordingly, although Plaintiff feels entitled to the maximum award of $150, 000 for each Defendant's willful infringement and ...

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