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UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Griffin

November 24, 2008

UMG RECORDINGS, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; BMG MUSIC, A NEW YORK GENERAL PARTNERSHIP; WARNER BROS. RECORDS INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; INTERSCOPE RECORDS, A CALIFORNIA GENERAL PARTNERSHIP; AND SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, A DELAWARE GENERAL PARTNERSHIP, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CODY GRIFFIN, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

On March 11, 2008, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendant, alleging copyright infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 101. SeeComplaint (Dkt. No. 1). Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that "Defendant, without the permission or consent of Plaintiffs, had continuously used, and continued to use, a [person-to-person] network to download and/or distribute to the public [nine] Copyrighted Recordings." Id.at ¶ 15.

Given Defendant's alleged infringement, Plaintiffs seek the minimum statutory damages afforded by 17 U.S.C. § 504(c), as well as attorneys' costs and fees pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 505. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiffs further claim that "[t]he conduct of Defendant is causing and, unless enjoined and restrained by this Court, will continue to cause Plaintiffs great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money." Id. at ¶ 20. Therefore, Plaintiffs contend that they are entitled to permanent injunctive relief prohibiting the Defendant from reproducing and distributing works currently, and from this point forward, copyrighted by the Plaintiffs. Id. Finally, Plaintiffs request that the Court order Defendant to destroy all copies of sound recordings made in violation of Plaintiffs' exclusive rights. Id.

Because Defendant neither filed an answer to the Complaint, nor otherwise made an appearance in this matter, upon motion of the Plaintiffs, the Clerk of the Court entered default on July 7, 2008. Dkt. Nos. 6, 7. On July 18, 2008, Plaintiffs filed the present Motion for default judgment against Defendant. Dkt. No. 8.

II. Discussion

A. The effect of Defendant's Default

"A defendant's default is deemed to constitute a concession of all well-pleaded allegations of liability, but is not considered an admission of damages." Brigiotta's Farmland Produce & Garden Ctr ., Inc. v. Przykuta, Inc., No. 05-CV-273S, 2006 WL 3240729, *1 (W.D .N.Y. July 13, 2006) (citation omitted). Therefore, although "a finding of liability can be predicated solely on a facially valid complaint, damages must be proven before a final default judgment is entered." Id. (citations omitted).

Applying these legal standards to this case, the Court concludes that Defendant used an online media distribution system to copy the nine copyrighted sound recordings listed on Exhibit "A" to Plaintiffs' Complaint and to distribute those recordings to other users of the system. See Complaint at ¶¶ 12-15. Moreover, these facts, which the Court must consider "established," constitute direct copyright infringement. See In re Aimster Copyright Litig., 334 F.3d 643, 645 (7th Cir. 2003), cert. denied sub nom., Deep v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., Inc., 540 U.S. 1107 (2004) (holding that, "[i]f the music is copyrighted, such swapping, which involves making and transmitting a digital copy of the music, infringes copyright. The swappers, who are ignorant or more commonly disdainful of copyright and in any event discount the likelihood of being sued or prosecuted for copyright infringement, are the direct infringers"); A & M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 239 F.3d 1004, 1014-15 (9th Cir. 2001) (stating that individuals who upload and download files from systems similar to the one that the defendant used commit direct copyright infringement). Accordingly, the Court holds that Defendant is liable to Plaintiffs for infringement of those copyrighted sound recordings that Plaintiffs listed in Exhibit "A" to their Complaint by the means alleged in the Complaint.

B. Damages

Section 504(a) of the Copyright Act provides, in pertinent part, that "an infringer of copyright is liable for . . . (2) statutory damages, as provided by subsection (c)." 17 U.S.C. § 504(a)(2). Section 504(c), in turn, provides, in pertinent part, that the copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work ... in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just.

17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(1); see also Fitzgerald Publ'g Co., Inc. v. Baylor Publ'g Co., Inc., 807 F.2d 1110, 1114 (2d Cir. 1986) (holding that "[t]he owner may elect to recover--instead of actual damages and profits--statutory damages under [17 U.S.C.] § 504(c) (1) for those works whose copyrights were registered at the time the infringement occurred").

Moreover, "[a] plaintiff may elect statutory damages 'regardless of the adequacy of the evidence offered as to his actual damages and the amount of the defendant's profits.'" Columbia Pictures Television, Inc. v. Krypton Broad. of Birmingham, Inc., 259 F.3d 1186, 1194 (9th Cir. 2001) (quotation omitted); see also Los Angeles News Serv. v. Reuters Television Int'l, Ltd., 149 F.3d 987, 996 (9th Cir. 1998) (holding that "a plaintiff may recover statutory damages 'whether or not there is adequate evidence of the actual damages suffered by plaintiff or of the profits reaped by defendant,' . . . in order "'to sanction and vindicate the statutory policy" of discouraging infringement'") (quotations omitted).

In the present case, rather than seek and/or attempt to prove actual damages, Plaintiffs have opted to seek the minimum statutory damages to which they are entitled as a result of Defendant's infringement. Specifically, Plaintiffs seek $750 for each of the nine infringements that they allege in their Complaint, the minimum provided for in § 504, for a total of $6,750.00. Since Plaintiffs seek the minimum statutory damages and have established infringement as a result of Defendant's default, it is not necessary for the Court to conduct a damage hearing before awarding such damages. See Motown Record Co. v. Armendariz, No. SA-05-CA-0357, 2005 WL 2645005, *2 (W.D. Tex. Sept. 22, 2005). Therefore, the Court grants Plaintiffs' request for statutory damages in the amount of $6,750.00.

Furthermore, in their "[Proposed] Default Judgment and Permanent Injunction," Plaintiffs request that the Court issue an Order granting them the following ...


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