Copyright Infringement Lawsuits under United States Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101

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by | April 19, 2019

Cases by Malibu Media, LLC and Strike 3 Holdings, LLC

In recent years federal courts, including the Eastern District of Virginia, have been flooded with copyright infringement cases filed against individuals by Plaintiffs, Malibu Media, LLC, and Strike 3 Holdings, LLC, both of which make adult movies.  These companies allege that the individual defendants have, without paying required fees, illegally downloaded and distributed copyrighted films using an online service, commonly BitTorrent, that allows people to anonymously share the videos.  Since 2012, these two companies have filed somewhere around 10,000 of these cases in federal district courts across the country.

I received a summons from Malibu Media or Strike 3 Holdings, what should I do? 

Immediately contact an attorney. Once you are served a summons, your clock starts running on a deadline to file an answer or responsive pleading. Typically, you will have 21 days to file an answer from the day you were served.  Service of a summons and complaint is the first stage of the case and is when you have the most options. If you fail to file an answer by the deadline, and you were properly served, the Plaintiff, in this case Malibu Media or Strike 3 Holdings, can ask for a default judgment. A default judgment is a monetary judgment against you that will stay on your record until you have satisfied your debt. 

I received a notice of judgment against me from Malibu Media or Strike 3 Holdings, what should I do? 

If the first notice of the lawsuit you receive is a notice of default judgment or a later notice of garnishment, it may mean that you were never properly served.  If that is the case, you should be able to get the judgment dismissed.  Although, the plaintiff can then refile if it chooses. If you receive a notice of judgment, contact an attorney as soon as possible to see if anything can be done.

Why is my case in Eastern District of Virginia?

These cases are in federal court because they are brought under the U.S. Copyright Act, which is a federal law.  If you have been sued in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA), it is because the plaintiff first tracked the suspected infringing IP address to a physical address in Virginia that is within the jurisdiction of the Eastern District.  Further, if you are being sued in the EDVA, that means you probably live in that jurisdiction and/or the alleged infringing took place there.

How do they know it’s me?

They don’t. But using use geolocation technology, these companies identify an infringing IP address and trace its location.  Armed with an IP address, they file a lawsuit against a “John Doe” defendant and then get the court’s permission to serve a subpoena on the internet service provider in order to identify the owner of the IP address, who then becomes the target of the lawsuit.  This does not mean that the Plaintiff will be able to prove that you are the infringing party, but it explains how they identified you. 

Why am I being sued for so much money?

These cases are brought under United States Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 501, et seq.  Under the Copyright Act, a successful plaintiff could collect damages of $750 to $30,000 for non-willful infringementper copyrighted work, and $150,000 per workfor “willful infringement,” as well as costs and reasonable attorney fees. 17 U.S.C. §§ 504 and 505.  

Initiating thousands of such lawsuits has been a lucrative business for Malibu Media and Strike 3 Holdings because many defendants do not respond to notice of the lawsuit and default judgment is entered against them, often for tens of thousands of dollars; and, when a defendant does respond to notice of the lawsuit, he or she often enters into an anonymous settlement agreement in order to avoid the public humiliation that would come from being associated with illegally downloading pornography.  

Should I settle? 

You should absolutely consult with an attorney before getting into any settlement agreement with either of these companies. These lawsuits are meant to intimidate you into settling for large sums of money. Consult an attorney to see what the evidence looks like, what the company will have to prove to make its case against you, and how to best to defend against the claim or negotiate a lower settlement amount or fight the case in court.

Should I get an attorney?

Absolutely. The facts of each individual case are important to evaluating the merits of the case and determining how to best proceed.  It is crucial that anyone served with a summons or a subpoena in such a case not ignore it.  There is limited time to respond and failure to do so could result in a default judgment against the defendant, possibly for tens of thousands of dollars.

Contact the office today for a consultation.