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G&G Closed Circuit Events LLC v. Mickey's Sports Bar And Grill LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

December 21, 2017

G&G CLOSED CIRCUIT EVENTS, LLC as Broadcast Licensee of the May 17, 2014 Bellator 120 Fight Program, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 11). For the reasons stated below, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         This is an anti-piracy case brought under the Federal Communications Act of 1934 (“FCA”), as amended. 47 U.S.C. §§ 533, 605. Plaintiff is in the business of marketing and licensing commercial exhibitions of pay-per-view closed-circuit prizefight events. (App. at 6.). Plaintiff purchased exclusive distribution and licensing rights to the Bellator 120: Rampage v. King Mo Fight Program that was broadcast on May 17, 2014 (the “Event”). (Id. at 13.). Through this agreement, Plaintiff had the exclusive right to sell the commercial distribution rights to the Event to commercial establishments, including bars, clubs, arenas, restaurants and the like, throughout Texas. (Orig. Compl. at ¶ 3; Mot. at ¶ 6.). Plaintiff claims that Defendants used an unauthorized decoder to illegally obtain access to the Event. (Mot. at ¶ 5.). Plaintiff hired Ana Saldana, an investigator, to visit Mickey's Sports Bar and Grill (“Mickey's”) on May 17, 2014, where she witnessed Defendants broadcast the Event on thirteen televisions in view of at least 37 customers. (Id. at ¶ 7; App. at 16-17.).

         On May 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Mickey's and its owner, Ricardo Morris (“Morris”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated the FCA and seeks statutory damages in the amount of $10, 000, additional damages in the amount of $50, 000, and attorney's fees of one third or $1, 000 based on an hourly rate of $250 per hour. (Pl. Orig. Compl. at p. 5; Mot. at 10.). Defendant Morris was served on June 20, 2017, and Mickey's was served on July 31, 2017. Neither Defendant filed an answer or otherwise responded to the Complaint. On December 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed its Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 11), and the Clerk of the Court entered an Entry of Default (ECF No. 12), on the same day.

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 55, courts may enter a default judgment against a defendant who has failed to plead or otherwise defend. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), (b). “Default judgment is proper only if the well-pleaded factual allegations in the [] Complaint establish a valid cause of action.” United States v. 1998 Freightliner Vin #: 1FUYCZYB3WP886986, 548 F.Supp.2d 381 (W.D. Tex. 2008); Nishimatsu Const. Co., Ltd. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975) (“There must be a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment.”). A defendant, “by his default, admits the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact.” Nishimatsu Const. Co., 515 F.2d at 1206.

         The Fifth Circuit employs the factors in Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886, 893 (5th Cir. 1998), when considering a motion for default judgment. Those factors are: (1) whether material issues of fact are at issue; (2) whether there has been substantial prejudice; (3) whether grounds for default are clearly established; (4) whether default was caused by good faith mistake or excusable neglect; (5) harshness of default judgment; and (6) whether the court would feel obligated to set aside a default on the defendant's motion. Id.

         III. Analysis

         The unauthorized reception or interception of either cable or satellite transmissions violates either 47 U.S.C. § 553 or § 605. Section 605(a) prohibits the unauthorized receipt and use of radio communications for one's “own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto.” 47 U.S.C. § 605(a). Section 553 prohibits the unauthorized interception or reception or the assistance in intercepting or receiving any communications service offered over a cable system. 47 U.S.C. § 553(a)(1). Here, the Defendants' illegal interception and subsequent broadcast of the Event violates both §§ 553 and 605.

         Considering the six factors set out in Lindsey, the Court finds they weigh in favor of granting a default judgment. First, Defendants did not file an answer or otherwise respond to Plaintiff's Complaint. As a result, there are no material facts in dispute. Lindsey, 161 F.3d at 893. Second, Defendants' “failure to respond to Plaintiff's Complaint threatens to bring the adversary process to a halt, effectively prejudicing Plaintiff's interests in pursuing its rights afforded by law.” John Perez Graphics & Design, LLC v. Green Tree Inv. Grp., Inc., No. 3:12-CV-4194-M, 2013 WL 1828671, at *3 (N.D. Tex. May 1, 2013) (Lynn, J.). Third, the grounds for default have been clearly established. Defendants were served over five months ago and have not responded to Plaintiff's Complaint nor sought relief or provided an explanation for their delay. Fourth, there is no evidence before the Court to indicate the Defendants' silence is the result of a good faith mistake or excusable neglect. Fifth, Plaintiff seeks only the relief to which it is entitled under the law, and Defendants' failure to respond during the last five months “mitigate[es] the harshness of a default judgment against them.” Id. Finally, the Court is not aware of any facts that would give rise to “good cause” to set aside the default if challenged by Defendants. Id. Therefore, the Court concludes that default judgment is procedurally proper.

         The Court finds that Defendants have not answered or otherwise defended in this action, and Defendants are not minors, incompetent, or in the military.[1] Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), (b)(1). Substantively, Plaintiff's Complaint establishes that Plaintiff held an exclusive license to market and sublicense the Event, and the Event was legally available only through a sublicense granted by Plaintiff. (Pl. Orig. Comp. at ¶¶ 6, 8.) The Complaint further establishes that the transmission of the Event was electronically coded or scrambled, and not intended for the use of the general public. (Id. at ¶ 9.). Thus, to broadcast the Event, Defendants had to decode the transmission with unauthorized decoder equipment. (Id.; Mot. at ¶ 5.).

         Plaintiff's supporting evidence includes a sworn affidavit from Thomas P. Riley to support Plaintiff's claims of Defendants' violations of § 553 and § 605. (App. at 5-11.). Riley avows that Plaintiff did not provide decoding or satellite equipment necessary for Defendants to receive the signal to broadcast the Event. (Id. at 8.). Plaintiff also provides an affidavit from Plaintiff's President stating Plaintiff held exclusive distribution rights to the Event (Id. at 13-14.), and an affidavit from Saldana describing her visit to Mickey's on May 17, 2014. (Id. at 16-17.). The Court accepts the well-pleaded facts in Plaintiff's Complaint and supporting evidence as true, to establish its claim for relief under the FCA.

         a. ...

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