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Malibu Media, LLC v. Martin

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

August 13, 2019

MALIBU MEDIA, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM MARTIN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY F. ATLAS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is before the Court on the Motion to Strike Affirmative Defenses (“Motion”) [Doc. # 24] filed by Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC. By Order [Doc. # 25] entered July 5, 2019, the Court directed Defendant William Martin, pro se, to file any opposition to the Motion by July 24, 2019. Defendant neither filed an opposition to the Motion nor requested additional time to respond. Having reviewed the record and the applicable legal authorities, the Court grants the unopposed Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant used the BitTorrent file distribution network to infringe Plaintiff's copyrights. In response to the Complaint, Defendant filed an Answer and asserted nine affirmative defenses: (1) unclean hands; (2) implied license; (3) one satisfaction rule; (4) laches; (5) failure to mitigate damages; (6) failure to state a claim; (7) unconstitutionally excessive damages; (8) waiver; and (9) estoppel. See Original Answer and Affirmative Defenses [Doc. # 21], pp. 4-11.

         Plaintiff filed its Motion, asking the Court to strike the affirmative defenses pursuant to Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Although the Court issued an order directing him to do so, Defendant failed to file any opposition to the Motion. Plaintiff's Motion to Strike Affirmative Defenses is now ripe for decision.

         II. STANDARD FOR MOTION TO STRIKE

         Rule 12(f) authorizes a court to “order stricken from any pleading . . . any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). A plaintiff who desires “early resolution of an affirmative defense may seek to strike it under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f).” C&C Inv. Props., L.L.C. v. Trustmark Nat'l Bank, 838 F.3d 655, 660-61 (5th Cir. 2016). “Although motions to strike a defense are generally disfavored, a Rule 12(f) motion to dismiss is proper when the defense is insufficient as a matter of law.” Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1057 (5th Cir. 1982). “Whether to grant or deny a motion to strike is in the trial court's discretion.” Fernandes v. VMOC LLC, 2018 WL 4901033, *1 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 9, 2018) (citing In re Beef Indus. Antitrust Litig., 600 F.2d 1148, 1168 (5th Cir. 1979)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Unclean Hands

         The affirmative defense of unclean hands does not apply where the plaintiff's alleged misconduct “is not directly related to the merits of the controversy between the parties, but only where the wrongful acts ‘in some measure affect the equitable relations between the parties in respect of something brought before the court for adjudication.'” See Mitchell Bros. Film Grp. v. Cinema Adult Theater, 604 F.2d 852, 863 (5th Cir. 1979) (quoting Keystone Driller Co. v. Gen. Excavator Co., 290 U.S. 240, 245 (1933)). “The alleged wrongdoing of the plaintiff does not bar relief unless the defendant can show that he has personally been injured by the plaintiff's conduct.” Id. (citing Lawler v. Gillam, 569 F.2d 1283, 1294 (4th Cir. 1978)). The affirmative defense of unclean hands “does not purport to search out or deal with the general moral attributes or standing of a litigant.” Id. (quoting NLRB v. Fickett-Brown Mfg. Co., 140 F.2d 883, 884 (5th Cir. 1944)).

         In this case, Defendant alleges that Plaintiff has failed to comply with various federal, state and local laws. There is no allegation that this alleged failure has changed the equitable relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant, or that the alleged misconduct has personally injured Defendant. Therefore, absent any opposition from Defendant, the Court strikes the unclean hands affirmative defense.

         B. Implied License

         An implied nonexclusive license can be created when “(1) a person (the licensee) requests the creation of a work, (2) the creator (the licensor) makes the particular work and delivers it to the licensee who requested it, and (3) the licensor intends that the licensee-requestor copy and distribute his work.” Lulirama Ltd., Inc. v. Axcess Broad. Servs., Inc., 128 F.3d 872, 879 (5th Cir. 1997) (quoting I.A.E., Inc. v. Shaver, 74 F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir.1996)). There is no allegation that Defendant requested that Plaintiff create the copyrighted work at issue, or that Plaintiff intended for Defendant to copy and distribute its work. As a result, the Court strikes the second affirmative defense.

         C. One ...


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