Before 2017

Two Days Too Late: Plaintiff Denied Default Judgment Given Failure to Properly Claim Copyright Infringement

Staubitser v. Diamond Diaspora Media, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:21-cv-02570-ELR (N.D. Ga. July 20, 2022)

On July 20, 2022, Judge Eleanor Ross of the Northern District of Georgia denied Plaintiff’s “Application for Default Judgment” and directed the Clerk to close the case, finding that Plaintiff’s Complaint failed to set forth a proper copyright infringement claim and failed to request appropriate relief.

Declining to enter default judgment in Plaintiff’s favor, the Court emphasized that it “possesses an independent obligation to assure that there is a legitimate basis for any damages award it enters.” Undertaking this obligation, the Court explained that Plaintiff’s claim for copyright infringement was deficient since, absent conclusory allegations, the Complaint failed to properly specify where his alleged rights arose from. Notably, although Plaintiff alleged that he registered his photograph (pictured below) with the U.S. Copyright Office, the Court noted that such registration occurred two days after the alleged infringement.

Ex. A to Complaint (Plaintiff Jim Staubitser’s Original Photograph)

In addition to declining default judgment given Plaintiff’s failure to state a legitimate claim for copyright infringement, the Court declined default judgment because all of Plaintiff’s requests for relief were improper. Specifically, Plaintiff requested both statutory and actual damages under 17 U.S.C. § 504(a). Under the Copyright Act, however, Plaintiff cannot seek both; Plaintiff can only seek one of the two types of damages (either statutory or actual damages). Aside from this blunder, the Court further explained that Plaintiff’s requests for relief nonetheless fail when examined individually. Accordingly, the Court recognized that Plaintiff’s claim for actual damages was improper because Plaintiff failed to carry his requisite burden and allege any information regarding Defendant’s gross revenue. Plaintiff’s claim for statutory damages was also improper under Section 412 of the Copyright Act since Plaintiff did not allege that he had a registered copyright prior to infringement. In fact, as explained above, Plaintiff alleged the exact opposite—i.e., that he registered his copyright two days after the alleged infringement. For this same reason, the Court also found that Plaintiff’s request for statutory attorney’s fees was improper. In light of the Court’s findings, the Court denied default judgment in Plaintiff’s favor and directed the Court to close the case.

Categories: Before 2017

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