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Warner Bros. Records Inc. v. Walker

March 31, 2010

WARNER BROS. RECORDS INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JEREMY WALKER, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: District Judge McLaughlin

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. The matter is fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons which follow, Plaintiffs' motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Warner Brothers Records, Inc., Virgin Records America, Inc., Capital Records, LLC, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Sony BMG Music Entertainment ("Plaintiffs") are recording companies that own or control exclusive rights to copyrighted sound recordings. (Complaint ¶ 11). Collectively, Plaintiffs are the undisputed owners of the copyrights to the following 19 sound recordings relevant to the instant action:*fn1

Copyright Artist Song Title Album Title SR # Plaintiff

Capital Records Poison Unskinny Bop Flesh and Blood 119-355 UMG Recordings 50 Cent Don't Push Me Get Rich Or Die Tryin' 337-801 Warner Bros. A-Ha Take On Me Hunting High and Low 63-603 UMG Recordings Def Leppard Pour Some Sugar Hysteria 90-420 on Me SONY BMG Cyndi Lauper Time After Time She's So Unusual 50-827 UMG Recordings Bon Jovi Livin' on a Prayer Slippery When Wet 71-794 Warner Bros. Blake Shelton Some Beach Some Beach (single) 359-307 Warner Bros. My Chemical Helena Three Cheers for Sweet 360-197

Romance Revenge

UMG Recordings Tiffany Could've Been Tiffany 83-157 SONY BMG Bonnie Tyler Total Eclipse of the Total Eclipse of the Heart 50-640

Heart (single)

Warner Bros. The Pretenders I'll Stand By You Last Of The Independents 191-975 Virgin Records UB40 Red Red Wine Labour of Love 49-244 Capital Records Billy Idol Rebel Yell Rebel Yell 52-131 UMG Recordings Archie Eversole We Ready Ride Wit Me Dirty South Style 316-541 SONY BMG Bruce Springsteen Hungry Heart The River 25-235 UMG Recordings The Police Every Breath You Synchronicity 44-862

Take

Capital Records Poison I Want Action Look What the Cat Dragged In 82-349 Capital Records Poison Every rose has its Open Up & Say....Ahh! 93-741 thorn

SONY BMG Michael Bolton How Can We Be Soul Provider 106-829

Lovers

(Complaint, Ex. 3).

In an effort to protect their copyrighted works from being illegally downloaded and distributed across the internet, Plaintiffs employ a third party service, MediaSentry, to attempt to detect possible copyright violations. (Declaration of Chris Connelly, ¶ 2-3) ("Connelly Decl."). Many of these violations occur using peer-to-peer ("P2P") file sharing networks in which individual internet users can search for, download and transfer exact copies of files (including sound recordings) from one computer to another over the internet.

On March 6, 2007 at 11:28 p.m. EST, MediaSentry detected an individual identified with the username "walker15" using a peer-to-peer file sharing program known as Ares. (Connelly Decl. ¶ 9). At the time of the detection, approximately 285 digital audio files, including the 19 Copyrighted Recordings, were contained in the "shared" folder of walker15's Ares program, meaning that those audio files were available for download and distribution from his computer to other users of the Ares network. (Id.) MediaSentry ascertained that the Internet Protocol ("IP") address of the user identified as "walker15" was 141.195.141.144. Further investigation revealed that Allegheny College was the Internet Service Provider that had assigned that particular IP address. Allegheny College later identified Defendant as the assignee of that IP address. (Plaintiffs' Concise Statement, Ex. 5).

On March 6, 2007, MediaSentry downloaded complete copies of ten of the sound recordings contained in Defendant's shared folder as a sample of the 285 audio files available for download to other Ares users. (Connelly Decl. ¶ 9). MediaSentry also downloaded a complete list of all 285 files in the shared folder on Defendant's computer at that time. (Connelly Decl. ¶ 9). Finally, MediaSentry captured the "User Log" from Defendant's IP address. The User Log is a text file containing all of the contents of the user's shared folder, including the names and sizes of files and additional information about each file referred to as "metadata." (Connelly Decl. ¶ 12). The information contained in the metadata of an audio file may include keywords, comments and identifiers added by an individual other than the copyright owner.*fn2 Metadata is automatically transferred from one computer to another when the file is downloaded. The UserLog from Defendant's computer indicates that 17 of the 19 Copyrighted Recording files contain keywords and/or descriptions in the metadata that would not have been included in sound recordings and compact discs sold through legitimate retail outlets and online sources. (Connelly Decl. ¶ 12; Connelly Decl. Ex. C).

On October 18, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a copyright infringement action seeking damages and injunctive relief as a result of the allegedly unauthorized use of Plaintiffs' sound recordings detected by MediaSentry. Plaintiffs initially filed this action as a "Doe" lawsuit and subsequently amended the Complaint after Defendant's identity was obtained from Allegheny College pursuant to a Rule 45 subpoena. In their Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs request injunctive relief pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§ 502-503, statutory damages in the amount of $750 per song pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504(c), and costs pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505.

At his deposition, Defendant testified that the Ares program had been installed on his computer by a friend of his and that he "occasionally" used the program. (Walker Deposition, March 13, 2009, pp. 38, 60-62, 65). Defendant admits that he used Ares to search for and download songs from other Ares users. (Walker Depo., pp. 68-69, 71-72, 76, 81, 84, 93, 96). Defendant did not pay for those downloads. (Walker Depo., p. 93, 96). Defendant acknowledged that he placed music into the shared folder of his Ares program and that, by doing so, he was making that music available to other Ares users for illegal download and distribution, although he was not aware of that at the time. (Walker Depo., pp. 91, 93-96). Defendant admits that he did so without the permission of the owners of the copyrights for those sound recordings. (Walker Depo., p. 95). Defendant further testified that he never added comments or keywords to the metadata of any of his music files and, indeed, had no knowledge of how to do so. (Walker Depo., pp. 41-42).

At all times relevant to this action, Defendant shared a dorm room with various roommates, each of whom had their own computers. (Walker Depo., pp. 9-13, 43). Defendant's computer was located in his bedroom, rather than a common area, but did not have a password or other form of protection designed to restrict access. (Walker Depo., p. 50). Defendant never gave permission to any of his roommates to use his computer and could not recall any specific instance in which anyone other than himself used it. (Walker Depo., pp. 50-51, 56).

The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims of copyright infringement pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1338.

II. STANDARD FOR REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(2) provides that summary judgment shall be granted if the "pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Rule 56(e) further provides that when a motion for summary judgment is made and supported, "an opposing party may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading; rather, its response must -- by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule -- set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. If the opposing party does not so respond, summary judgment should, if appropriate, be entered against that party."

A district court may grant summary judgment for the defendant when the plaintiff has failed to present any genuine issues of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Krouse v. American Sterilizer Company, 126 F.3d 494, 500 n.2 (3rd Cir. 1997). The moving party has the initial burden of proving to the district court the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Country Floors, Inc. v. Partnership Composed of Gepner and Ford, 930 F.2d 1056, 1061 (3rd Cir. 1990). Further, "[R]ule 56 enables a party contending that there is no genuine dispute as to a specific, essential fact 'to demand at least one sworn averment of that fact before the ...


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