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Bodyguard Productions v. Does

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

November 8, 2018

BODYGUARD PRODUCTIONS, Plaintiff,
v.
DOES 1-25, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM DECISION

          TENA CAMPBELL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Bodyguard Productions (Bodyguard) filed suit against twenty-five doe Defendants who, it alleges, illegally downloaded and shared the motion picture “The Hitman's Bodyguard” using BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol. Bodyguard holds the copyright for the film, and claims infringement under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. Having reached settlement agreements with eighteen of the twenty-five Defendants, Bodyguard now moves for the entry of default judgments against the remaining seven, who have ignored their summonses and otherwise failed to participate in the case. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants Bodyguard's motion.

         BACKGROUND FACTS

         In an effort to curb unauthorized distribution of the movie “The Hitman's Bodyguard, ” its copyright holder, Bodyguard Productions, hired an investigative service, Maverickeye UG, to monitor BitTorrent networks and identify and compile the unique internet protocol (IP) addresses of those who downloaded the film. Anyone who downloads a movie or other file on a BitTorrent network becomes part of a “swarm”-a group of peers who all hold the same file, and from whom others can then download separate pieces of the file.[1] Thus, anyone who downloads a movie contributes, as a matter of course, to its further distribution.

         Between September 5, 2017, and September 8, 2017, Maverickeye documented twenty-five instances in which internet users in Utah, identified by their IP addresses, received or transmitted a digital copy of “The Hitman's Bodyguard” through a BitTorrent network. Bodyguard brought this action against twenty-five doe Defendants identified only by their IP addresses, then issued subpoenas to various internet service providers to learn the name and address of each IP address holder. It sent each named Defendant a letter proposing settlement.

         Bodyguard reached settlement agreements with eighteen of the Defendants. Seven never responded to the letter or to subsequent summonses: Mohamed Jamal (Doe 3), Andranek Manukyan (Doe 6), Corbin Roper (Doe 13), Alexander Hamilton (Doe 14), Corey Adams (Doe 15), Reda Jamal (Doe 16), and Josh Solt (Doe 20).

         The Clerk of Court entered certificates of default against the seven Defendants[2] (the “Defendants in default”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a), and Bodyguard now moves the court for entry of default judgments pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2). In addition, Bodyguard seeks an award of statutory damages in the amount of $10, 000 per Defendant, as well as a permanent injunction barring the Defendants from copying or distributing the film without license.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 authorizes the court to enter default judgment against a party who “has failed to plead or otherwise defend” against claims for affirmative relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). It sets forth a two-step process. First, the clerk of court “must enter the party's default” under Rule 55(a). Second, a party may move the court (or, in certain circumstances, the clerk) for entry of default judgment under Rule 55(b).

         “[T]he entry of a default judgment is committed to the sound discretion of the district court.” Tripodi v. Welch, 810 F.3d 761, 764 (10th Cir. 2016). Default judgments are generally disfavored, as “[t]he preferred disposition of any case is upon the merits.” Gomes v. Williams, 420 F.2d 1364, 1366 (10th Cir. 1970). But “a workable system of justice requires that litigants not be free to appear at their pleasure.” Cessna Fin. Corp. v. Bielenberg Masonry Contracting, Inc., 715 F.2d 1442, 1444 (10th Cir. 1983). Parties must be held “to a reasonably high standard of diligence in observing the courts' rules of procedure[, ]” and “[t]he threat of judgment by default serves as an incentive to meet this standard.” Id. at 1444-45.

         Default judgment “must be supported by a sufficient basis in the pleadings.” Tripodi, 810 F.3d at 765. After the clerk has entered default, “it remains for the court to consider whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action.” Bixler v. Foster, 596 F.3d 751, 762 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting 10A Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary K. Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2688, at 63 (3d ed. 1998)); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6) (“An allegation . . . is admitted if a responsive pleading is required and the allegation is not denied.”). The court must first assure itself of personal and subject matter jurisdiction. Williams v. Life Sav. & Loan, 802 F.2d 1200, 1203 (10th Cir. 1986). It must then determine whether the plaintiff's complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief. Stampin' Up!, Inc. v. Hurst, No. 2:16-cv-00886-CW, 2018 WL 2018066, at *4 (D. Utah May 1, 2018). The court may also look to declarations and other exhibits when evaluating a plaintiff's claims. See, e.g., Major Bob Music v. S. Shore Sports Bar & Grill, Inc., No. 2:08-cv-689-DB, 2010 WL 2653330, at *1 (D. Utah June 30, 2010).

         JURISDICTION

         The court has personal jurisdiction over all seven Defendants in default. Each was properly served with a summons and copy of the complaint at their residence in Utah (see Proof of Serv., ECF No. 43), which establishes personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A). The court also has subject matter jurisdiction over this case because it arises under an “Act of Congress relating to . . . copyrights.” 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a).

         ANALYSIS

         A copyright infringement claim has two elements: “(1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying of constituent elements of the work that are original.” Blehm v. Jacobs, 702 F.3d 1193, 1199 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991)). Along with its complaint, Bodyguard submitted a copy of its certificate of registration of ...


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