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Inc. v. Palmer

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

May 21, 2019

UN4 PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
MADISON PALMER, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DIRECTING ENTRY OF DEFAULT JUDGMENT AGAINST MORTEDHA AL-SULTAN

          Robert S. Lasnik, United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff UN4's motion for default judgment against defendant Mortedha Al-Sultan. Dkt. #132. Having reviewed the relevant briefing and the remainder of the record, the Court finds as follows:

         I. BACKGROUND

         This motion for default judgment is just one of the more than one hundred default judgment motions filed by plaintiff's counsel in twenty-six cases before the undersigned. All of the cases assert essentially the same causes of action based on remarkably similar allegations, although the motion picture at issue, the owner of the copyright, and the defendants vary. For purposes of this motion, UN4 alleges that 60 individual defendants unlawfully infringed its exclusive copyright to the motion picture Boyka Undisputed 4, 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.

         Defendant Al-Sultan was initially sued in the same complaint as twenty-two other individuals because, given the unique identifier associated with a particular digital copy of Boyka Undisputed 4 and the timeframe in which the internet protocol address associated with each defendant accessed that digital copy, UN4 alleges that all of the defendants were all part of the same “swarm” of users that reproduced, distributed, displayed, and/or performed the copyrighted work. According to UN4, Al-Sultan and his co-defendants directly or indirectly shared, downloaded, and distributed a single unique copy of Boyka Undisputed 4 that had been seeded to the torrent network at some undefined point in the past.

         Al-Sultan initially responded to UN4's complaint (Dkt. # 49), but subsequently failed to participate in the Rule 26(f) conference or discovery. The Court issued an Order to Show Cause why default should not be entered against Al-Sultan for his failure to participate or respond to prior Court orders. Dkt. #129. Default was entered against him on March 4, 2019. Dkts. #131. UN4 now seeks judgment against Al-Sultan.

         II. 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 UN4's complaint establish Al-Sultan's liability for direct copyright infringement. To establish direct infringement, UN4 must demonstrate ownership of a valid copyright and that Al-Sultan 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, UN4 alleges it owns the exclusive copyright to the motion picture Boyka Undisputed 4 and that Al-Sultan participated in a “swarm” to unlawfully copy and/or distribute the same unique copy of Boyka Undisputed 4. These allegations were established by entry of default against Al-Sultan. Accordingly, UN4 has established his 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 Al-Sultan. UN4 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). UN4's complaint sufficiently alleges a claim of direct copyright infringement, and Al-Sultan did not present any evidence to the contrary. Additionally, the Court finds there is a low probability that default against Al-Sultan was due to excusable neglect: defendant initially responded and was given ample opportunity to participate in this matter but has apparently chosen not to do so. ...


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