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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Inc. v. Chetney

February 26, 2007

SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT INC. AND COLUMBIA PICTURES INDUSTRIES, INC., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JILL CHETNEY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs, two of the world's leading motion picture studios, retained MediaSentry to combat infringement of their copyrighted motion pictures on peer-to-peer ("P2P") networks. See Declaration of Alexandra N. DeNeve, dated May 19, 2006, at ¶¶ 2-3. MediaSentry is a company that provides online antipiracy and copyright protection services to identify direct infringers of Plaintiffs' copyrights on P2P networks. See id. at ¶ 3.

MediaSentry searched several P2P networks for infringing copies of Plaintiffs' copyrighted motion pictures. See id. at ¶ 4. When MediaSentry located a user offering Plaintiffs' copyrighted works for download, it sought to download those files while obtaining information to confirm the infringement and to identify the infringer. See id.

Defendant used a fictitious network name or pseudonym to copy and distribute Plaintiffs' copyrighted works. See id. at ¶ 5. Therefore, Plaintiffs initially could only identify Defendant by the unique Internet Protocol ("IP") address that her internet service provider ("ISP"), Time Warner Cable, had assigned to her on the date and at the time of the infringement. See id. Based upon this information, Plaintiffs filed a "John Doe" lawsuit against Defendant and others in the Southern District of New York, where Time Warner Cable is located. See id.

ISPs keep track of the IP addresses that they assign to their subscribers in "user logs." See id. at ¶ 6. These user logs provide the most accurate means to connect an infringer's identity to its infringing activity. See id. In their "John Doe" lawsuit, Plaintiffs moved for leave to serve a subpoena on Time Warner Cable seeking Defendant's true identity. See id. The court granted the motion and, on August 8, 2005, Plaintiffs served the subpoena. See id. In response, Time Warner Cable identified Defendant as the individual using the IP address that MediaSentry had obtained at the time of the infringement. See id. at ¶ 7.

According to the information that Time Warner Cable provided, Defendant did not reside in the Southern District of New York. See id. at ¶ 8. Therefore, Plaintiffs dismissed that suit against Defendant without prejudice and sought to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with her.

See id. Defendant refused to settle the dispute. See id.

On February 23, 2006, Plaintiffs filed the complaint in this action to prevent Defendant from copying and distributing to others over the Internet unauthorized copies of certain of Plaintiffs' copyrighted motion pictures and for damages in connection with Defendant's past infringements of these motion pictures. See id. at ¶ 9; Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law at 1 (citation omitted). Plaintiffs served Defendant with a copy of the summons and complaint on March 15, 2006. See id. at ¶ 10. Defendant did not answer or otherwise appear within the statutory period; and, therefore, on April 26, 2006, Plaintiffs sent her a letter advising her that she was in default and that, if she failed to answer, Plaintiffs would seek a default judgment against her. See id. at ¶ 11. Defendant did not respond to Plaintiffs' letter. See id. On May 10, 2006, Plaintiffs requested that the Clerk of the Court enter a Notice of Default against Defendant; see Dkt. No. 5; and on May 11, 2006, the Clerk of the Court did so, see Dkt. No. 6.

Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for entry of a default judgment against Defendant pursuant to Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Dkt. No. 7.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Default Judgment Standard

Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides a two-step procedure for entry of a default judgment. First, "[u]nder Rule 55(a), a clerk must . . . enter the default against a party who fails to plead or otherwise defend." Time Warner Entm't/Advance Newhouse P'ship v. Stockton, No. 5:00-CV-1989, 2004 WL 1739520, *1 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 3, 2004) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a)). Second, the plaintiff must "move the court for default judgment." Id. (citation omitted). "In considering a motion for default judgment, the court will treat the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true, and the court will then analyze those facts for their sufficiency to state a claim." Id. (citation omitted). Since, at Plaintiffs' request, the Clerk of the Court entered default against Defendant, Plaintiffs' motion for entry of a default judgment is appropriately before the Court.

In support of their motion, Plaintiffs assert that their complaint sets forth the following facts that establish Defendant's liability for willful copyright infringement: (1) Plaintiffs own the applicable exclusive distribution rights to the following copyrighted motion pictures, Guess Who and Boogeyman; (2) each of these motion pictures is the subject of a valid Certificate of Copyright Registration that the Register of Copyrights issued; (3) Defendant infringed Plaintiffs' exclusive rights by distributing to others, without authorization, copies of these copyrighted motion pictures by using a P2P network on the Internet; and (4) Defendant's infringement was willful because she either was aware or had reason to be aware that her actions constituted an infringement of Plaintiffs' rights. See Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law at 1-2. Based upon these facts, Plaintiffs request statutory damages in ...


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