$4M Default Judgment for Private in Copyright Suit

SIOUX CITY, IA—Calling it a "shot across the bow against further piracy," Iowa District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett on Monday awarded Private Media subsidiary Fraserside IP a default judgment in the total amount of $3,998,814 in a copyright infringement case in which the defendants never bothered to respond. The judgment in Fraserside v Faragalla includes an award of $150,000 for each of the 19 copyright violations that the court determined were willfully undertaken by Beamont, California residents Mark and Mina Fargalla, who ran the now defunct membership site, PornVisit.com, which as of July 7, 2011 was allegedly the 2,861 most-visited website on the internet. 

The 23-page order is simply damning as far as the Faragalla's actions are concerned. "Fraserside’s copyrighted and trademarked works have been infringed by the Faragallas through the reproduction, distribution, and public display of Fraserside’s films on PornVisit.com," wrote Judge Bennett. "Fraserside marks each of its films with a copyright notice and trademark in order to inform the public of its ownership. The Faragallas have altered Fraserside’s films by removing these notices and trademarks. The Faragallas place their own watermark on Fraserside’s material with the word 'PORNVISIT' in large font across Fraserside’s works."

Referring to pornvisit.com as a "cash cow," the judge threw the book at the Faragallas, awarding permanent injunctive relief in addition to monetary awards that the judge freely admitted may err on the side of the plaintiff. However, he said, "I am allowed to engage in some degree of speculation in computing the amount of damages here because my inability to compute them is attributable to the Faragallas’ wrongdoing."

All told, the monetary award includes statutory damages, actual damages from Lanham Act violations, prejudgment and post-judgment interest and attorneys' fees and costs, broken down as follows:

Damages on copyright claims $2,850,000
Damages on Lanham Act claims $1,135,775
Attorney’s fees and costs $13,039
Total damages $3,998,814

In a preface to his order, Judge Bennett wrote, "The modern day pirates at issue in this litigation do not wear tricornes and extract their ill gotten booty at cutlass point, but with a mouse and the internet. Nonetheless, their theft of property is every bit as lucrative as their brethren in the golden age of piracy. Plaintiff asserts a variety of copyright and trademark infringement claims against defendants concerning its adult motion pictures shown on defendants’ internet website. Having obtained an entry of default against defendants, plaintiff now requests that I enter a sizable default judgment against defendants as a shot across the bow against further piracy."

Commenting on Monday's judgment, Fraserside IP's chief enforcement officer and consultant Jason Tucker said, "Judge Bennett understood the situation that this content producer is in and the frustration we experience in seeking justice against those who pilfer our hard work product. I am very pleased with the outcome. With maximum damages ($150,000 per infringement) awarded across the board, I think that the message is clear; if proven a pirate of protected work, you will pay a high price. Along with attorney Chad Bellville, we will continue to fight on behalf of producers.”

The order and default judgment can be accessed here.