The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kugler, United States District Judge
This matter comes before the Court upon motion by Plaintiff Comcast Cable Communications ("Comcast") for entry of a default judgment against Defendant Joseph Weigel ("Defendant"), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), for failure to appear, answer, or otherwise defend in this matter. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Comcast's motion.
Comcast operates cable television systems, providing programming services to paying consumers. Comcast subscribers purchase "Basic" or "Standard" tier packages for a set monthly rate and can then add various "Premium" programming services for additional monthly charges of $7.00 to $13.00 per service. Comcast also offers "pay-per-view" programming, allowing subscribers to purchase individual movies, sporting events, or other entertainment for a "per event" fee, ranging from $4.00 to $49.00, in addition to the cost of the subscriber's regular monthly subscription.
Comcast protects its services from unauthorized reception by encoding, or "scrambling," its proprietary signals. Comcast provides subscribers with a decoding device that unscrambles the appropriate purchased services, enabling customers to view the programs for which they paid. Programming that the customer has not purchased remains scrambled and unviewable on the subscriber's television set.
According to Comcast, Defendant purchased a "pirate" converter-decoder device on February 14, 2002, from Modern Electronics, Inc., to intercept Comcast's cable programming without paying for the service. Comcast filed the above-captioned suit against Wiegel on April 19, 2005, seeking an injunction and monetary damages pursuant to the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 553. Wiegel was served with the Summons and Complaint at his residence on May 2, 2005, however, he has not appeared or otherwise responded to Comcast's Complaint.
Upon request by Comcast, the Clerk of the Court entered Default on July 11, 2005. Comcast now moves for entry of judgment, including an award of statutory damages in the amount of $250.00 to $10,000.00 pursuant to § 553(c)(3)(A)(ii), costs in the amount of $250.00, and attorneys' fees in the amount of $1,414.50. Comcast also seeks to enjoin Defendant from committing any further violations of § 553(a)(1).
II. Default Judgment Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2) authorizes courts to enter a default judgment against a properly served defendant who fails to file a timely responsive pleading. Anchorage Assoc. v. Virgin Is. Bd. of Tax Rev., 922 F.2d 168, 177 n.9 (3d Cir. 1990) ("When a defendant fails to appear . . . , the district court or its clerk is authorized to enter a default judgment based solely on the fact that the default has occurred."). The entry of a default judgment is largely a matter of judicial discretion, although the Third Circuit has emphasized that such "discretion is not without limits, however, and we have repeatedly stated our preference that cases be disposed of on the merits whenever practicable." Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1181 (3d Cir. 1984) (citations omitted).
Although the Court should accept as true the well-pleaded factual allegations of the Complaint, the Court need not accept the moving party's legal conclusions or allegations relating to the amount of damages. Comdyne I, Inc. v. Corbin, 908 F.2d 1142, 1149 (3d Cir. 1990); Directv, Inc. v. Asher, 2006 WL 680533, at *1 (D.N.J. Mar. 14, 2006) (citing Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay Kane, 10A Federal Practice and Procedure § 2688, at 58-59, 63 (3d ed. 1998)). Consequently, before granting a default judgment, the Court must first ascertain whether "the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action, since a party in default does not admit mere conclusions of law." Asher, 2006 WL 680533, at *1 (citing Wright, Miller, & Kane, § 2688, at 63); Directv, Inc. v. Croce, 332 F. Supp. 2d 715, 717 (D.N.J. 2004)).
Section 553(a)(1) provides that "no person shall intercept or receive or assist in intercepting or receiving any communications service offered over a cable system, unless specifically authorized to do so by a cable operator or as may otherwise be specifically authorized by law." 47 U.S.C. § 553(a)(1). Any person aggrieved by a violation of § 553(a)(1) may bring a civil action in federal district court. 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(1).
In the event of a violation, the district court may (1) "grant temporary or final injunctions on such terms as it may deem reasonable to prevent or restrain violations of [section 553(a)(1)]"; (2) "award damages"; and/or (3) "direct the recovery of full costs, including awarding reasonable attorneys' fees to an aggrieved party who prevails." 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(2). The court must calculate damages using one of two methods: the prevailing party may recover its actual damages plus any profits of the violator that are attributable to the violation of § 553(a), or the prevailing party may recover an award of statutory damages for all ...