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Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Coco Bongo Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

December 9, 2019

BROADCAST MUSIC, INC., ET AL.
v.
COCO BONGO INC., ET AL.

          JUDGMENT

          BRIAN A. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 16). Oral argument is not required. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs[1] are a "performing rights society" that licenses the right to perform approximately 14 million copyrighted musical compositions on behalf of the copyright owners. (Doc. 16-1 at pp. 1-2). Plaintiffs claim that Defendants[2] failed to obtain licenses for the music used for live and recorded performances after numerous requests to do so. (Id. at p. 2). Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendants requesting an injunction, statutory damages, costs, and reasonable attorney's fees. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs identified six individual works which they claim that Defendants publicly performed without a license. Plaintiffs also filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 4). Defendants failed to respond to either of Plaintiffs' Complaints. Plaintiffs were granted a Clerk's entry of default. (Doc. 14). Now, Plaintiffs move for default judgment against Defendants. (Doc. 16).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has adopted a three-step process to obtain a default judgment. See New York Life Ins. Co. v. Brown, 84 F.3d 137, 141 (5th Cir. 1996). First, a default occurs when a party "has failed to plead or otherwise defend" against an action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Next, an entry of default must be entered by the clerk when the default is shown "by affidavit or otherwise." New York Life, 84 F.3d at 141. Third, a party may apply to the court for a default judgment after an entry of default. Id.; Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b).

         After a party files for a default judgment, courts must apply a two-part process to determine whether a default judgment should be entered. First, a court must consider whether the entry of default judgment is appropriate under the circumstances. Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886, 893 (5th Cir. 1998). Several factors are relevant to this inquiry, including: (1) whether there are material issues of fact at issue, (2) whether there has been substantial prejudice, (3) whether the grounds for default have been clearly established, (4) whether the default was caused by excusable neglect or good faith mistake, (5) the harshness of the default judgment, and (6) whether the court would think itself obliged to set aside the default on a motion by Defendant. Id.

         Second, the Court must assess the merits of the plaintiffs claims and determine whether the plaintiff has a claim for relief. Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975); Hamdan v. Tiger Bros. Food Mart, Inc., 2016 WL 1192679, at *2 (M.D. La. Mar. 22, 2016).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Default Judgment is Appropriate Under the Lindsey Factors

         The Court must first decide whether the entry of default judgment is appropriate under the circumstances by considering the Lindsey factors. First, there are no material facts in dispute because Defendants failed to respond to Plaintiffs' Complaints. Second, it is undisputed that Defendants have not responded to Plaintiffs' filings. Third, the grounds for granting a default judgment against Defendants are clearly established, as evidenced by the action's procedural history and the Clerk's entry of default. Fourth, the Court has no basis to find that Defendants' failure to respond was the result of a good faith mistake or excusable neglect because Defendants have not challenged the entry of default or the instant motion. Fifth, Defendants' failure to file any responsive pleading or motion mitigates the harshness of a default judgment. Finally, the Court is not aware of any facts that would lead it to set aside the default judgment if challenged by Defendants. The Court therefore finds that the six Lindsey factors weigh in favor of default.

         B. The Sufficiency of the Pleadings

         The Court must also determine whether Plaintiffs' pleadings provide a sufficient basis for a default judgement. Plaintiffs sued Defendants for copyright infringement under the Copyright Act.[3] To prevail on a copyright infringement claim, a plaintiff must establish: 1) ownership of a valid copyright, 2) unauthorized copying, and 3) substantial similarity to the copyrighted work. Peel & Co. v. The Rug Mkt., 238 F.3d 391, 394 (5th Cir. 2001).

         Here, Plaintiffs allege that they have been granted the right to license the rights in 14 million musical compositions. (Doc. 1 at p. 2). Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants publicly perform copyrighted music in Plaintiffs' repertoire without previously having purchased the license to do so. (Id. at p. 4). Therefore, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a sufficient basis ...


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