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J & J Sports Productions, Inc. v. After Six Productions, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

February 19, 2014

J & J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
AFTER SIX PRODUCTIONS, INC., d/b/a VISION, and JOHN DOE Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on a Motion for Default Judgment ("Motion") (ECF No. 10) filed by Plaintiff J & J Sports Productions, Incorporated ("JJSP"). On September 3, 2013, JJSP filed a Complaint against Defendant After Six Productions, Incorporated ("ASP"), which does business as Vision, and against an unnamed defendant, John Doe. The Complaint alleges that ASP willfully intercepted a broadcast transmission of a boxing match on September 17, 2011, for commercial purposes in violation of 47 U.S.C. §§ 553 and 605. A hearing was held on Tuesday, February 18, 2014;, and the matter is now ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT the Motion and AWARD damages in an aggregate amount of $22, 321.68.

BACKGROUND[1]

Pursuant to a licensing agreement, JJSP obtained the exclusive rights to exhibit the closed-circuit telecast of "Star Power: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Victor Ortiz, Championship Fight Program" and all related programming (collectively, the "Event") at locations throughout Virginia, such as theaters, arenas, bars, restaurants, and the like. The Event occurred on September 17, 2011, but only those commercial establishments in Virginia which had paid JJSP a fee in exchange for closed-circuit rights were authorized to broadcast the Event. JJSP charged a fee of $2, 200.00 for commercial establishments with seating capacity of 100 or less, and charged higher fees for establishments with greater seating capacity. JJSP alleges that Defendants could have, but did not, contract with JJSP for the rights to broadcast the Event.

The transmission of the Event was electronically encrypted, or "scrambled, " to deter unauthorized entities from broadcasting the Event. In order for the signal to be received and displayed clearly, it had to be decoded with electronic decoding equipment. This equipment was provided to those commercial establishments that contracted with JJSP for closed-circuit broadcast rights. JJSP alleges that it did not provide such equipment to ASP. JJSP further alleges that by virtue of the aforementioned encryption, there is no known means of mistakenly, innocently, or accidentally intercepting broadcasts such as the Event.

JJSP hired Brian Stephens to visit ASP's establishment, Vision, on September 17, 2011, during broadcast of the Event. JJSP alleges that Mr. Stephens was charged a cover fee of $10.00 to enter ASP's establishment, as were all male patrons. JJSP further alleges that Mr. Stephens observed ASP exhibit portions of the Event-specifically, the under-card bout between Jessie Vargas and Joseito Lopez, on September 17, 2011.

On September 3, 2013, JJSP brought suit against ASP for two Counts of violating the Communications Act of 1934. On December 11, 2013, the Clerk of Virginia's State Corporation Commission, as the statutory agent of ASP, was served with a copy of the Summons and Complaint.[2] On January 9, 2014, the Clerk of the Court entered default against ASP. On January 14, 2014, JJSP filed this Motion for Default Judgment to which ASP failed to respond. A hearing was held on February 18, 2014, to conduct an accounting; however, ASP failed to appear.

LEGAL STANDARD

A default judgment is "a final disposition of the case and an appealable order that has the same effect as a judgment rendered after a trial on the merits." United States v. $23, 000 in U.S. Currency, 356 F.3d 157, 163 (1st Cir. 2004) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). Default judgment is governed by Rule 55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Before a plaintiff may obtain default judgment, the Clerk of Court must first enter default pursuant to Rule 55(a). "When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). "Entry of default is an interlocutory order - entered in anticipation of a final judgment - formally recognizing that a party has failed to plead or otherwise defend as provided by [the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure].'" $23, 000 in U.S. Currency, 356 F.3d at 163 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a)).

After the Clerk enters default, either the Clerk or the Court may enter default judgment. The Clerk enters default judgment "[i]f the plaintiff's claim is for a sum certain or a sum that can be made certain by computation...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(1). Otherwise, the Court may enter default judgment in its discretion. See Broglie v. Mackay-Smith, 75 F.R.D. 739, 741 (W.D. Va. 1977) ("Once a party defaults, the issue of whether to grant or deny a motion for entry of default judgment is a matter largely within the discretion of the trial court.") (citations omitted). Generally, default judgment is warranted if a defendant fails to plead or otherwise defend itself. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55; Music City Music v. Alfa Foods, Ltd., 616 F.Supp. 1001, 1002 (E.D. Va. 1985). The party requesting default judgment must show: "(1) when and against what party the default was entered; (2) identification of the pleading to which default was entered; (3) whether the defaulting party is an infant or incompetent person; (4) that the defendant is not in military services; and (5) that notice has been served on the defaulting party, if required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2)." JTH Tax, Inc. v. Smith, No. 2:06-CV-76, 2006 WL 1982762, at *1 (E.D. Va. June 23, 2006). While the Court may hold a hearing when needed to "(A) conduct an accounting; (B) determine the amount of damages; (C) establish the truth of any allegation by evidence; or (D) investigate any other matter, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2), the Court may award relief without a hearing if it is supported by the pleadings, see Anderson v. Found. For the Advancement, Educ. And Employment of Am. Indians, 155 F.3d 500, 507 (4th Cir. 1998).

DISCUSSION

A. REQUIREMENTS FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT

JJSP has met the requirements of Rule 55(b). Default judgment may properly be entered against ASP. JJSP has not explicitly certified that ASP meets the requirements for an entity against which default judgment may be entered. However, because ASP is a registered Virginia corporation, it is not a minor, incompetent, or a person engaged in military service. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). Additionally, the Court has both subject matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction over ASP, and venue is proper in this district. Finally, JJSP appears to have alleged sufficient facts to show that it is entitled to the requested relief.

A federal district court has subject matter jurisdiction over claims that arise under federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. JJSP's claims arise under the Communications Act of 1934, specifically, 42 U.S.C. §§ 553, 605. Accordingly, because JJSP's claims arise under ...


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