United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division
Glen E. Conrad Chief United States District Judge.
Blaine Harrington ("Harrington") filed this
copyright infringement action against defendant African
American Matchmaking ("AAM") on December 14, 2015,
alleging violations of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §
101 et seq. The plaintiff has now filed a motion for
default judgment under Rule 55(b) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated, the motion will be
reviewing a motion for default judgment, the court accepts as
true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as
to liability. See Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network,
253 F.3d 778, 780-81 (4th Cir. 2001).
plaintiff is an experienced, commercial travel and location
photographer. Defendant is a matchmaking and dating website
for African-American individuals. AAM currently has 22, 060
members. On September 1, 2001, the plaintiff captured the
photograph "BER-01-19-02.jpg" (the
"Photograph"), and published the Photograph on
April 17, 2011. Plaintiff registered the Photograph with the
United States Copyright Office on April 26, 2011. Beginning
on or about June 1, 2015, the defendant copied and posted the
Photograph to accompany an article on the website for African
American Matchmaking ("AMM"). The defendant copied
and posted the Photograph on no less than seven distinct
filed this copyright infringement action against AAM on
December 14, 2015, alleging violations of the Copyright Act,
17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. The record shows that
the owner of African American Matchmaking was served on
January 3, 2017. To date, African American Matchmaking has
not filed a responsive pleading. An entry of default was
filed against African American Matchmaking on February 10,
2017, pursuant to Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Plaintiff has now moved for default judgment. The
matter is ripe for review.
Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, default
judgment is a two-step process. See Jefferson v. Briner,
Inc.. 461 F.Supp.2d 430, 433 (E.D. Va. 2006). Prior to
entry of default judgment, there must be an entry of default.
See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). After default is entered by the
Clerk, a party may move the court for default judgment under
default, all of the well-pleaded facts alleged in the
complaint may be taken as true. See Ryan, 253 F.3d
at 780 ("[T]he defendant, by his default, admits
plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations of fact[.]")
(internal citation omitted); see also Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(b)(6). Accordingly, in the default judgment context, the
"appropriate inquiry is whether or not the face of the
pleadings supports the default judgment and the causes of
action therein." Anderson v. Found, for Advancement.
Educ. & Emp't of Am. Indians. No. 99-1508, 1999
U.S. App. LEXIS 18633, at *2 (4th Cir. Aug. 10, 1999).
the well-pleaded factual allegations in a complaint are
accepted as true for purposes of default judgment, a party
who defaults does not admit the allegations as to the amount
of damages. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(6) (providing that
"[a]n allegation - other than one relating to the amount
of damages - is admitted if a responsive pleading is required
and the allegation is not denied"). Consequently, if the
court determines that liability is established, it must then
determine the appropriate amount of damages. Ryan,
253 F.3d at 780-81. In so doing, the court may conduct an
evidentiary hearing under Rule 55(b)(2). The court may also
make a determination of damages without a hearing as long as
there is an adequate evidentiary basis in the record for the
award. See Anderson, 155 F.3d at 507 (noting that
"in some circumstances a district court entering a
default judgment may award damages ascertainable from the
pleadings without holding a hearing").
establish copyright infringement, "two elements must be
proven: (1) ownership of a valid copyright, and (2) copying
of constituent elements of the work that are original."
Feist Publ'n. Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv., Inc..
499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991). The court believes that plaintiff
has established that both elements are met. Plaintiff has
shown that defendant copied the Photograph and that plaintiff
owned a valid copyright. Thus, the court will address
plaintiffs requested remedies. Plaintiff seeks the remedies
provided by the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §§ 502,
504(c) and 505: (1) an injunction prohibiting further
infringing use of the Photograph, and (2) statutory damages
in the amount of $15, 750.
Copyright Act provides that "[a]ny court having
jurisdiction of a civil action arising under this title may
... grant temporary and final injunctions on such terms as it
may deem reasonable to prevent or restrain infringement of a
copyright." 17 U.S.C. § 502(a). Injunctive relief
is appropriate when the nature of the infringement prevents
an adequate remedy at law, and a permanent injunction is
especially appropriate when a threat of continuing
infringement exists. See M.L.E. Music v. Kimble.
Inc., 109 F.Supp.2d 469, 473 (S.D.W.Va.2000)
("Various district courts within this circuit have held
that when a claim of copyright infringement has been proven,
a permanent injunction prohibiting further infringements is
appropriate and routinely entered."). Here, plaintiff
has proven a claim of copyright infringement and there is no
indication that defendant intends to stop the infringement.
Consequently, the court finds that a permanent injunction is
Copyright Act also allows for statutory damages. See 17
U.S.C. § 504(c)(1) ("The copyright owner may elect,
at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover,
instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory
damages for all infringements ... in a sum of not less than
$750 or more than $30, 000 as the court considers
just."). A plaintiff may elect statutory damages for
copyright infringement whether or not there is adequate
evidence of the actual damages suffered by plaintiff. See
Jackson v. Sturkie. 255 F.Supp.2d 1096, 1101 (N.D.
Cal. 2003). District courts are afforded wide discretion in
setting damage amounts. See F.W. Woolworth Co. v.
Contemporary Arts. Inc.. 344 U.S. 228, 231-32 (1952). In
exercising this discretion, a district court considers the
following factors: "(1) the expenses saved and profits
reaped by defendants in connection with the infringement; (2)
revenues lost by the plaintiffs; and (3) whether the
infringement was willful and knowing or whether it was
accidental or innocent." Jasperilla Music Co.. MCA.
Inc. v. Wing's Lounge Assoc, 837 F.Supp. 159, 161
(S.D.W.Va.1993). Statutory damages are ...