Baylson Hands Malibu Media a Bellwether Victory in Doe Case

PHILADELPHIA, Pa.— U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson has recently been immersing himself in some of the more pressing issues facing the adult entertainment industry. In addition to overseeing Free Speech Coalition v Holder, the 2257 case that was remanded back to his court by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals and is currently in the middle of a two week trial, the federal judge took a day out of that case this week to hold a one day bellwether trial in Malibu Media v. John Does 1, 6, 13, 14 and 16, a consolidation of three similar copyright infringement cases on which he ruled yesterday in the plaintiff’s favor, levying a large monetary fine against the sole remaining defendant.  

“Originally filed in April 2012,” reported Law360, “the suit alleged that the John Does, without obtaining Malibu Media’s permission, participated in a so-called swarm of computer users who downloaded and shared separate pieces of the copyrighted films — which include titles such as Anneli Leila Menage A Trois — that were pieced together so the videos could be viewed.”

Judge Baylson’s ruling for Malibu Media is significant. In granting damages in the amount of $112,500 against Bryan White, one of the three defendants accused of pirating Malibu Media content, Baylson not only enforced a significant monetary claim in a BitTorrent copyright infringement case, but also vindicated Malibu Media as not being what is commonly referred to in these Prenda Law days as a “copyright troll,” meaning a company that brings copyright lawsuits against multiple or single alleged infringers without intending to take the cases to trial but with the sole goal of “shaking down” the defendants for settlements.  

The ruling also puts on the record findings culled from direct testimony that the plaintiff company is a real copyright holder and not a shell company formed in order to enforce others’ copyrights, which has been alleged in other similar cases not involving Malibu Media. The case was also significant for the fact that Comcast took an active third party interest in the proceedings, and had filed motions to quash.

“The judge put our feet to the fire and said I'm going to make you prove it,” said Malibu Media attorney Christopher Fiore of Fiore & Barber LLC, following the verdict, which was filed Tuesday. “The decision vindicates our client, shows that our technology is sound and shows that we can prove our case."

Of the three defendants who remained attached to the lawsuit after most of the original John Doe defendants had been dismissed with prejudice, two settled before the bellwether trial was held June 10 in the same courtroom being used in the 2257 trial. The remaining defendant was originally known only as John Doe 16 and later identified as Bryan White, according to Law360.

White, the site added, “was found by Judge Baylson to have infringed Malibu Media's copyrights on five separate occasions and was assessed a penalty of $22,500 per infringement. Judge Baylson based that figure by trebling the minimum penalty of $750, and increasing that figure 10-fold because of White's perjury and his attempt to destroy evidence, attorneys for Malibu Media said.”

Of perhaps more concern to the defendant, Malibu lawyers said the perjury claims may be turned over to the Department of Justice for further prosecution. The judge’s actual verdict in the case is currently unavailable for download.

Fiore was adamant that in addition to the sizeable monetary award, the ruling by Baylson is even more significant for the company in terms of its ongoing efforts to protect its copyrights in court. In a statement that clearly reflects the impact the Prenda Law cases have had in courtrooms around the country, he noted, “The distinction [that Malibu Media is not a copyright troll] goes a long way and is more important than the monetary judgment, That idea was going to dog us with all these cases, but the ruling showed that Malibu Media is a real entity that owns copyrights.”

Judge Baylson, as AVN reported, also took time out from both of these adult-related cases to sign an order stating that two children in desperate need of lung transplants “will be treated the same as adults and will receive a ranking [on a transplant waiting list] based on the details of her case relative to others.” Previously, because of Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) rules, the children were told they had to wait until all adults on the list had received their transplants, a wait that could have proved fatal for them.

And of course, this one-day bellwether copyright infringement trial was also bookended by the 2257 trial, whose latest coverage can be found here, with more to come.