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ME2 Productions Inc. v. Lupastean

United States District Court, W.D. Washington Seattle.

June 28, 2018

ME2 PRODUCTIONS, INC, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID LUPASTEAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART ME2's MOTIONS FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

          Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff ME2 Productions, Inc.'s motions for default judgment against defendants David Lupastean (Dkt. #42), Krystal Hogue (Dkt. #44), Henery Asi (Dkt. #46), and Adnan Ihsan (Dkt. #48). Having reviewed the relevant briefing and the remainder of the record, ME2's motions for default judgment are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The four motions for default judgment that are the subject of this Order are just a portion of the more than eighty default judgment motions ME2 has filed in nineteen cases pending in this Court.[1] All of the cases assert the same causes of action. ME2 alleges that hundreds of individual defendants unlawfully infringed its exclusive copyright to the motion picture Mechanic: Resurrection, which it developed and produced, by copying and distributing the film over the Internet through a peer-to-peer network using the BitTorrent protocol. Plaintiff served internet service providers (“ISP”s) with subpoenas in order to identify the alleged infringers. Amended complaints identifying defendants by name were subsequently filed.

         Defendants Lupastean, Hogue, Asi, and Ihsan (collectively “Defendants”) are named in the same complaint because, given the unique identifier associated with a particular digital copy of Mechanic: Resurrection and the timeframe in which the internet protocol address associated with each Defendant accessed that digital copy, ME2 alleges the named Defendants were all part of the same “swarm” of users that reproduced, distributed, displayed, and/or performed the copyrighted work. According to ME2, Defendants directly or indirectly shared, downloaded, and distributed a single unique copy of Mechanic: Resurrection that had been seeded to the torrent network at some undefined point in the past.

         Defendants did not respond to ME2's complaint. The Clerk of Court therefore entered default against Defendants at ¶ 2's request. See Dkts. #35-37 and #40. ME2 now seeks judgment against each Defendant.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) authorizes a court to grant default judgment. Prior to entering judgment in defendant's absence, the Court must determine whether the allegations of a plaintiff's complaint establish his or her liability. Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1986). The court must accept all well-pled allegations of the complaint as established fact, except allegations related to the amount of damages. TeleVideo Sys., Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987). Where the alleged facts establish a defendant's liability, the court has discretion, not an obligation, to enter default judgment. Alan Neuman Productions, Inc. v. Albright, 862 F.2d 1388, 1392 (9th Cir. 1988). If plaintiff seeks an award of damages, it must provide the Court with evidence to establish the amount. TeleVideo Sys., 826 F.2d at 917-18.

         A. Liability Determination.

         The allegations in ME2's complaint establish Defendants' liability for direct copyright infringement. To establish direct infringement, ME2 must demonstrate ownership of a valid copyright and that Defendants copied “constituent elements of the work that are original.” L.A. Printex Indus., Inc. v. Aeropostale, Inc., 676 F.3d 841, 846 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991)). Here, ME2 alleges it owns the exclusive copyright to the motion picture Mechanic: Resurrection and that Defendants participated in a “swarm” to unlawfully copy and/or distribute the same unique copy of Mechanic: Resurrection. These allegations were established by entry of default against Defendants. Accordingly, ME2 has established Defendants' liability for direct copyright infringement.

         B. Default Judgment is Warranted.

         Having established liability, plaintiff must also show that default judgment is warranted. Courts often apply the factors listed in Eitel, 782 F.2d at 1471-72, to make this determination. Those factors are:

“(1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the merits of 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.”

         The majority of these factors weigh in favor of granting default judgment against Defendants. ME2 may be prejudiced without the entry of default judgment as it will be left without a legal remedy. See Landstar Ranger, Inc. v. Parth Enters., Inc., 725 F.Supp.2d 916, 920 (C.D. Cal. 2010). ME2's complaint sufficiently alleges a claim of direct copyright infringement, and Defendants did not present any evidence or argument to the contrary. Additionally, the Court finds there is a low probability that default against Defendants was due to excusable neglect: Defendants were given ample opportunity to respond to the filings in this matter between the time they were served with ME2's complaint and when ME2 filed its motions for default judgment. Finally, although there is a strong policy favoring decisions on the merits, the Court may consider Defendants' failure to respond to ME2's requests for default and default judgment as admissions that the motions have merit. LCR 7(b)(2).

         The Court acknowledges that a dispute concerning the material facts alleged by ME2, including the identity of the alleged infringers, could arise in this case. The Court also acknowledges that the amount at stake may be significant depending on the means of each Defendant. ME2 seeks enhanced statutory damages in the amount of at least $1, 500 along with attorneys' fees in excess of $1, 600 and costs in excess of $150 from each individual Defendant. Notwithstanding these considerations, the Eitel factors weigh in favor of granting default judgment against Defendants.

         C. Approp ...


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