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Joe Hand Promotions Inc. v. Martinez

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

July 15, 2019

JOE HAND PROMOTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ISIDRO MARTINEZ, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LILES C. BURKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. has filed a motion for default judgment (doc. 11). Defendants Isidro Martinez, individually and as an officer, director, shareholder, member, and/or principal of El Rey Del Mar Marisqueria (“Martinez”) and El Rey Del Mar Marisqueria (“El Rey” or the “Establishment”) (collectively, “defendants”) did not file a response to the Court's order to show cause (doc. 12). Therefore, this matter is ready for review. For the reasons stated below, the motion for default judgment is granted with respect to Count I of the complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this action against defendants on November 23, 2018. In its complaint, plaintiff alleges as follows. Plaintiff was granted the exclusive right to commercially distribute the audiovisual presentation of the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Conor McGregor boxing match, including all undercard bouts and commentary, on Saturday, August 26, 2017 (the “Program”). (Doc. 1, p. 2; Do c . 11-3 (Hand Aff., ¶ 3)). Plaintiff alleges that, by written agreement with the owner of the registered copyright [PA 2-066-333] of the Program, plaintiff was assigned ownership of the right to distribute and authorize the public performance of the Program. (Doc. 1, p. 2; Doc. 11-3 (Hand Aff., ¶ 3)). Plaintiff alleges that El Rey is a business entity operating an establishment located at 4320 University Drive NW, Huntsville, Alabama 35916. (Doc. 1, p. 2; Doc. 11-4 (Aycock Aff., p. 1)). Plaintiff further alleges that Martinez resides in the State of Alabama and, on the date of the Program, was an officer, director, shareholder, member or principal of the entity owning and operating El Rey. (Doc. 1, p. 2).

         Plaintiff licensed the Program to numerous establishments nationwide, authorizing them to exhibit the Program to customers, patrons, members, and guests after payment of a commercial license fee. (Doc. 1, p. 3; Doc. 11-3 (Hand Aff., ¶¶ 3, 7)). In other words, the Program was legally available to defendants, but only after paying the commercial license fee to plaintiff. Defendants did not, however, pay the proper commercial license fee to plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 3; Doc. 11-3 (Hand Aff., ¶ 11)). Rather, defendants took affirmative steps to circumvent the commercial licensing requirement and unlawfully obtained the Program through an unauthorized cable signal, satellite signal, and/or internet stream. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4; Doc. 11-3 (Hand Aff., ¶¶ 12-15)). Defendants knew, or should have known, that their receipt and exhibition of the Program for commercial use at their establishment was not authorized. (Id.). Plaintiff accuses defendants of thus intentionally pirating the Program for the sole purpose of their own economic gain, and for the commercial purpose of attracting paying customers, patrons, members, and guests, thereby wrongfully benefiting financially by infringing plaintiff's rights in the high-profile event.

         Plaintiff filed a two-count complaint based on these allegations. Count I of the complaint alleges satellite and cable piracy in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605 and 47 U.S.C. § 553, respectively. Count II alleges copyright infringement in violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 106 and 501. As a result of these infractions, plaintiff demands statutory damages and attorneys' fees, interest, and costs of suit.

         Defendants were served on February 2, 2019. (Docs. 4, 5). Defendants did not answer the complaint. (Doc. 11-2, p. 1). A clerk's entry of default was entered against defendants on March 19, 2019, pursuant to Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docs. 9, 10). Plaintiff then filed the motion for default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on April 18, 2019. On April 22, 2019, the Court ordered defendants to show cause as to why default judgment should not be entered against them for the amount requested. (Doc. 12). Defendants did not respond to the order to show cause.

         Plaintiff submitted evidence in support of its motion for default judgment, which further expounds on the facts alleged in the complaint. In particular, the evidence shows that commercial establishments wishing to broadcast the Program in the State of Alabama were required to enter into a contract with plaintiff and to pay to plaintiff a commercial sublicense fee. (Doc. 11-3 (Hand Aff., ¶ 7)). The sublicense fee is based on the capacity of the commercial establishment and varies for each event. (Id.). For example, if a commercial establishment has a maximum fire code capacity of 150-200 persons, the commercial sublicense fee would have been $6, 700.00 for the Program. (Id.; see also Doc. 11-6 (Rate Card)).

         Defendants did not pay a commercial sublicense fee to plaintiff, plaintiff did not permit the Establishment's cable or satellite provider to receive and broadcast the Program, and plaintiff did not authorize defendants to exhibit the Program at the Establishment. (Doc. 11-3 (Hand Aff., ¶ 11-13)). On the night of the event, a private investigator, hired by plaintiff, visited the Establishment. (Doc. 11-4 (Aycock Aff., p. 1)). The private investigator observed at least six television sets in the Establishment which were broadcasting the Program. (Id.). The private investigator estimated the capacity of the Establishment at 200 people; he also observed as many as 63 people present during the Program. (Id.).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure addresses the entry of default judgment by the Court and states:

(2) By the Court. In all other cases, the party must apply to the court for a default judgment. A default judgment may be entered against a minor or incompetent person only if represented by a general guardian, conservator, or other like fiduciary who has appeared. If the party against whom a default judgment is sought has appeared personally or by a representative, that party or its representative must be served with written notice of the application at least 7 days before the hearing. The court may conduct hearings or make referrals-preserving any federal statutory right to a jury trial-when, to enter or effectuate judgment, it needs to:
(A) conduct an accounting;
(B) determine the amount of ...

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