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Malibu Media, LLC v. Ho

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 17, 2019

WEI HO, Defendant


          Kane, Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC (“Plaintiff”)'s motion for default judgment against Defendant Wei Ho (“Defendant”). (Doc. No. 21.) Given that Defendant has yet to appear or defend in this action, no opposition to the motion has been filed. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion in part and enter default judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background[1]

         Plaintiff is a California limited liability company that owns the copyrights to various adult films, including ten films (the “Works”) identified in Plaintiff's amended complaint.[2] (Doc. No. 14 ¶¶ 3, 8.) Defendant is an individual residing at 672 Cumberland Avenue, Apartment D, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, without authorization, downloaded, copied, and distributed copies of each of the Works using the BitTorrent file distribution network (“BitTorrent”).[3] (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff asserts that its investigator was able to connect to the internet protocol (IP) address identified as belonging to Defendant and download pieces of digital media files that have been verified to contain digital copies of each of the Works from Defendant. (Id. ¶¶ 17-21.) Plaintiff asserts that it did not authorize, permit, or consent to the distribution of the Works by Defendant. (Id. ¶ 31.)

         B. Procedural Background

         On March 13, 2018, Plaintiff initiated the instant action by filing a complaint against Defendant “John Doe subscriber assigned IP address” asserting a copyright infringement claim pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§ 106 and 501. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on November 16, 2018, in which it asserts one claim of copyright infringement against Defendant pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §§ 106 and 501. (Doc. No. 14.) A review of the docket reveals that Defendant was served with copies of the summons and amended complaint on December 19, 2018, establishing a deadline for Defendant to file an answer or otherwise respond to the amended complaint of January 9, 2019. (Doc. No. 23.) As of the date of this Memorandum, Defendant has not appeared, answered, moved, or otherwise responded to Plaintiff's complaint. On February 14, 2019, Plaintiff requested an entry of default against Defendant (Doc. No. 19), and the Clerk of Court entered default against Defendant on the same date (Doc. No. 20). Plaintiff filed the instant motion for default judgment (Doc. No. 21) and a brief in support thereof (Doc. No. 22) on February 27, 2019. Because Defendant has not yet responded to the pending motion for default judgment, the Court deems Plaintiff's motion for default judgment unopposed. Accordingly, the motion is ripe for disposition.


         Default judgments are governed by a two-step process set forth under Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. An entry of default by the Clerk of Court under Rule 55(a) is a prerequisite to a later entry of a default judgment under Rule 55(b). See 10A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2682 (3d ed. 2007) (“Prior to obtaining a default judgment under either Rule 55(b)(1) or Rule 55(b)(2), there must be an entry of default as provided by Rule 55(a).”). Once the Clerk of Court has entered a default, the party seeking the default may then move the Court to enter a default judgment under Rule 55(b)(2). Entry of default does not entitle a claimant to default judgment as a matter of right. See 10 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 55.31 (Matthew Bender ed. 2010). Indeed, it is well settled that decisions relating to the entry of default judgments are committed to the sound discretion of the district court. See Emcasco Ins. Co. v. Sambrick, 834 F.2d 71, 74 (3d Cir. 1987).

         Three factors control the exercise of the district court's discretion in assessing whether default judgment should be granted following the entry of default: “(1) prejudice to the plaintiff if default is denied, (2) whether the defendant appears to have a litigable defense, and (3) whether defendant's delay is due to culpable conduct.” See Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 164 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing United States v. $55, 518.05 in U.S. Currency, 728 F.2d 192, 195 (3d Cir. 1984)). “A finding that default judgment is appropriate, however, is not the end of the inquiry.” Martin v. Nat'l Check Recovery Servs., LLC, No. 12-1230, 2016 WL 3670849, at *1 (M.D. Pa. July 11, 2016). Prior to entering a default judgment, the Court must also determine whether the “unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action.” See Wright, et al., supra, at § 2688; Broad. Music, Inc. v. Spring Mount Area Bavarian Resort, Ltd., 555 F.Supp.2d 537, 541 (E.D. Pa. 2008) (“Consequently, before granting a default judgment, the Court must . . . ascertain whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does not admit mere conclusions of law.” (citations omitted)). In conducting this inquiry, “the well-pleaded, factual allegations of the complaint . . . are accepted as true and treated as though they were established by proof.” See E. Elec. Corp. of N.J. v. Shoemaker Const. Co., 652 F.Supp.2d 599, 605 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (citation omitted). While the Court must accept as true the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint, the Court need not accept the moving party's factual allegations or legal conclusions relating to the amount of damages. See Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990).


         Having reviewed the record, including Plaintiff's amended complaint, motion, supporting brief, exhibits, and accompanying affidavits, the Court finds that the entry of default judgment against Defendant and in favor of Plaintiff is appropriate. As an initial matter, the Court observes that Plaintiff's unchallenged allegations in the complaint, taken as true, state a legitimate cause of action based on copyright infringement because Plaintiff has alleged “(1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original.”[4] See In re McGraw-Hill Global Education Holdings LLC, 909 F.3d 48, 67 (3d Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991)).

         Furthermore, the Court finds that each of the three Chamberlain factors weighs in favor of entering default judgment against Defendant. First, Plaintiff will be prejudiced if the Court declines to enter default judgment because Plaintiff is unable to proceed with the action due to Defendant's failure to respond and has no other means of recovering against Defendant. See Broad. Music, Inc. v. Kujo Long, LLC, No. 14-449, 2014 WL 4059711, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 14, 2014) (“Plaintiffs will be prejudiced . . . by their current inability to proceed with their action due to [the] [d]efendants' failure to defend.”). Second, Defendant has not asserted a meritorious defense to Plaintiff's claims through the filing of an answer or other response to the complaint, or through the filing of a response to the instant motion. Consequently, the Court is unable to conclude from Defendant's silence that Defendant has a viable, litigable defense. See Laborers Local Union 158 v. Fred Shaffer Concrete, No.10-1524, 2011 WL 1397107, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 13, 2011). Third, the Court cannot discern from the record any excuse or justification for Defendant's default apart from Defendant's own culpability. Indeed, Defendant has failed to enter an appearance or file a timely answer to the complaint and has offered no reasons for his failure to do so. “A defendant's default, or its decision not to defend against allegations in a complaint, may be grounds for concluding that the defendant's actions are willful.” Innovative Office Prods., Inc. v., Inc., No. 10-4487, 2012 WL 1466512, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 2012). In the absence of an excuse or justification for Defendant's failure to participate in this litigation, the Court must conclude that the delay is the result of Defendant's culpable conduct. See Laborers Local Union 158, 2011 WL 1397107, at *2. Accordingly, the Court is satisfied that the Chamberlain factors counsel in favor of entering default judgment in favor of Plaintiff.

         A. ...

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