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Malibu Media, LLC v. Yamaguchi

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 22, 2014

MALIBU MEDIA, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
GREGORY YAMAGUCHI, Defendant.

RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

MICHAEL E. HEGARTY, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's partially unopposed Motion to Strike Defendant's Affirmative Defenses [filed March 11, 2014; docket #23]. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and D.C. Colo. LCivR 72.1C, the motion is referred to this Court for recommendation. (Docket #27.) Defendant filed a response to the motion on April 14, 2014; the Court finds that oral argument will not assist in the adjudication of the motion. For the reasons that follow, the Court RECOMMENDS Plaintiff's Motion be granted in part and denied in part.[1]

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initiated this action on October 11, 2013, alleging that then-John Doe Defendant, identified only by his Internet Protocol ("IP") address, infringed on Plaintiff's copyrighted work by using the internet and a "BitTorrent" protocol to reproduce, distribute, display, or perform Plaintiff's protected films. In an effort to identify the alleged infringer, Plaintiff requested permission from the Court to serve limited, immediate discovery on the Doe Defendant's Internet Service Provider ("ISP") prior to the Rule 26(f) conference. (Docket #3.) The Court determined that Plaintiff had shown good cause for limited expedited discovery and granted Plaintiff's motion in part. (Docket #9.) In particular, the Court authorized Plaintiff to serve a third party subpoena pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 on the identified ISP for the limited purpose of ascertaining the identity of the Doe Defendant as set forth in Plaintiff's Complaint. The Court directed that the subpoena be limited to providing Plaintiff with the true name, address, telephone number, and email address of the Defendant to whom the ISP had assigned an IP address. With the subpoena, the Court directed Plaintiff to serve a copy of its order. Finally, the Court emphasized that Plaintiff could only use the information disclosed in response to the subpoenas for the purpose of protecting and enforcing its rights as set forth in its Complaint [docket #1]. The Court cautioned Plaintiff that improper use of this information could result in sanctions.

In accordance with the Court's order, Plaintiff served a Rule 45 subpoena on Defendant's ISP and obtained his identity. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on January 7, 2013, naming Mr. Yamaguchi as a Defendant. (Docket #12.) Defendant filed his Answer to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on February 11, 2014, asserting ten (10) affirmative defenses. (Docket #17.)

Plaintiff filed the present motion to strike certain affirmative defenses listed in the Answer on March 11, 2014. (Docket #23.) Defendant was granted an extension of time (docket #29) and filed his response to the motion on April 14, 2014 (docket #30). The Court is now sufficiently advised and recommends as follows.

LEGAL STANDARDS

Rule 12(f) permits the Court to "strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). "The purpose of Rule 12(f) is to save the time and money that would be spent litigating issues that will not affect the outcome of the case." Kimpton Hotel & Rest. Group, LLC v. Monaco Inn, Inc., No. 07-cv-01514-WDM, 2008 WL 140488, at *1 (D. Colo. Jan. 11, 2008) (citing United States v. Shell Oil Co., 605 F.Supp. 1064, 1085 (D. Colo. 1985)). Striking a portion of a pleading is a drastic remedy; the federal courts generally view motions to strike with disfavor and infrequently grant such requests. 5C Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1380 (3d ed. 2011). Whether to strike an affirmative defense rests within the discretion of the trial court. Anderson v. Van Pelt, No. 09-cv-00704-CMA, 2010 WL 5071998, at *1 (D. Colo. Dec. 7, 2010) (citing Vanderhurst v. Colo. Mountain Coll. Dist., 16 F.Supp.2d 1297, 1303 (D. Colo. 1998)).

"An affirmative defense is insufficient if, as a matter of law, the defense cannot succeed under any circumstance." Unger v. U.S. West, Inc., 889 F.Supp. 419, 422 (D. Colo. 1995). The standard articulated in Unger continues to be the appropriate standard. For the reasons stated herein, the Court holds that an affirmative defense is sufficient if stated "in short and plain terms" pursuant to Rule 8(b)(1)(A), and if the movant fails to demonstrate that the defense cannot succeed under any circumstance.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff's motion seeks to strike Defendant's first, second, fourth, fifth, eighth and tenth affirmative defenses. Defendant does not oppose an order striking his first ("failure to state a claim"), second ("no standing"), fourth (failure to timely register) and fifth ("not real party in interest") defenses, and the Court finds these defenses cannot succeed under any circumstance in this case; thus, the Court will recommend striking the first, second, fourth and fifth defenses. The Court's remaining analysis will focus on the eighth defense titled "copyright misuse" and the tenth defense titled "failure to mitigate damages." With the aforementioned legal principles in mind, the Court will consider each of the challenged defenses in turn.

I. Eighth Defense: Copyright Misuse

In his Eighth Defense, Defendant asserts "Plaintiff is misusing alleged copyrights for purposes outside the scope and intent of the applicable copyright statutes." Answer, docket #17 at 4. Citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(b)(1)(A), Plaintiff contends that Defendant failed to allege "even a single fact in support of his defense." Docket # 23 at 3. Defendant explains in his response brief that he alleges "Plaintiff is utilizing copyright laws not for protection of its copyrighted works, but rather as a means of generating revenue, which may exceed the value of the works themselves." Docket #30 at 3.

First, the Court finds that Defendant's stated affirmative defense is sufficient under Rule 8(b) governing the pleading of ...


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