A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Court Refuses to Vacate Default Judgment in Copyright Infringement Action

In a June 14, 2013 ruling, Judge P. Kevin Castel denied a motion to set aside a default judgment of copyright infringement against Anthony Defries, Mainman Ltd. and MMRX (collectively referred to by the Court as Defries) in favor of Capitol Records, LLC and related plaintiffs. Capitol had alleged that Defries had irrevocably sold to it “certain musical compositions and sound recordings embodying the works of David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Iggy Pop and John Mellencamp. Capitol sued Defries in 2011, alleging copyright infringement because Defries had authorized online retailers to sell the works at issue. Capitol tried to serve Defries at what he claimed was an outdated address, although Defries admitted that he actually received electronic copies of the lawsuit and he returned executed waivers of service. Judge Castel entered a default judgment on Capitol’s motion, finding that “the default was willful because Defries evaded or challenged service for months and failed to comply with multiple scheduling orders.” After an inquest, the Court entered final judgment for $9,350,000 in statutory damages in Capitol’s favor, as well as attorneys’ fees. Defries did not appeal the judgment, but later moved to set the judgment aside under Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(c), 55(c) and 60(b).

With regard to the challenge under Rule 54(c), Defries argued on a variety of grounds that the judgment differed in kind from that demanded in the complaint. Judge Castel rejected Defries’ arguments, finding that the complaint clearly demanded statutory damages under 17 U.S.C. § 505, and thus “notified Defries of the claims asserted against him and the nature of the relief sought.” Judge Castel analyzed the request for relief under Rule 60(b) using the three so-called “good cause” factors, willfulness of default, prejudice to plaintiff and existence of meritorious defenses. The Court noted that he had previously found the default to be willful, and was not persuaded otherwise by Defries’ most recent arguments to the contrary. Judge Castel likewise adhered to his earlier conclusion that Defries did not have meritorious defenses. Lastly, the Court held that Capitol had invested heavily in obtaining the default judgments, and would be prejudiced by the setting aside of the default. The Court further considered and rejected a variety of other argument by Defries, and ultimately declined to set aside the default.
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