United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
Malibu Media, LLC brings this action against Defendant Tim
McManus, alleging copyright infringement pursuant to 17
U.S.C. § 106. This matter comes before the Court on
Plaintiff's motion to dismiss Defendant's
counterclaims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For
the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is
GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.
is a limited liability company incorporated in California,
with its principal place of business in Beverly Hills,
California. Am. Compl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 10. Plaintiff
produces pornographic films that it offers over the internet
via paid subscription. Malibu Media, LLC v.
Ricupero, 705 Fed.Appx. 402, 403 (6th Cir. 2017);
see also Pl.'s Mot. to Dismiss Def.'s
Counterclaims (“Pl.'s Mot.”) 5-6, ECF No.
22-1 (admitting that plaintiff in Ricupero and
Plaintiff in the instant case are one and the same).
Defendant is an individual residing at 100 Greenwood Avenue
in Haskell, New Jersey. Am. Compl. ¶ 9.
alleges one count of direct copyright infringement against
Defendant, claiming that he illegally downloaded 14 of
Plaintiff's films using the peer-to-peer file sharing
system BitTorrent. See Am. Compl. ¶¶
10-25. Plaintiff submits that it employed investigators who
connected with Defendant's Internet Protocol
(“IP”) address and downloaded one or more digital
files related to each of the 14 films from the BitTorrent
network. See id. ¶¶ 17-22. The Court
granted Plaintiff leave to serve a third-party subpoena on
the internet service provider, who subsequently identified a
company, Greenwood Digital, LLC, as the subscriber of the IP
address. See Am. Compl. ¶ 26; Cert. of T.
McManus ¶¶ 3-5, ECF No. 18-2. Upon further
investigation, Plaintiff's investigators identified
Defendant as a resident of the same location as Greenwood
Digital. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 29-30.
Plaintiff avers that a subscriber to an infringing IP address
is ordinarily the infringer; however, sometimes the infringer
is another person authorized to use the subscriber's
internet connection. See id. ¶ 27. Plaintiff,
therefore, named Defendant in its Amended Complaint (the
“Complaint”) but omitted the actual subscriber,
Greenwood Digital. See id. ¶¶ 32-33.
answered the Complaint, admitting that he resides at the
identified location but otherwise denying all allegations of
copyright infringement. See Answer ¶¶
9-10, 36; see also Def.'s Br. in Opp'n to
Pl.'s Mot. (“Def.'s Opp'n”) 2, ECF
No. 25-1. In addition to his affirmative defenses, Defendant
also raises two counterclaims. The first seeks a declaratory
judgment affirmatively holding that he did not infringe
Plaintiff's copyright. The second alleges abuse of
process against Plaintiff. See id. at 11-14.
now moves to dismiss Defendant's two counterclaims,
arguing first that the Court's issuance of a declaratory
judgment would be redundant to a determination on the merits
of Plaintiff's infringement claim. See Pl.'s
Mot. at 7-10. Second, Plaintiff argues that Defendant's
abuse of process counterclaim is conclusory and wholly
unsupported by the alleged facts. See id. at 10-14.
opposes, arguing first that his claim for declaratory relief
is necessary to ensure a determination on the merits, which
will guard against Plaintiff from voluntarily dismissing
without prejudice the instant case when it realizes that it
cannot prove Defendant infringed. See Pl.'s
Opp'n at 6-8. Defendant next argues that it has properly
alleged an abuse of process claim against Plaintiff.
Defendant alleges that Plaintiff has historically engaged in
abusive litigation strategies with the goal of shaming
previous defendants into coercive settlement agreements.
See id. at 10-16. Defendant contends that the only
reason Plaintiff filed suit against him instead of the
subscriber, Greenwood Digital, is because he is a male and
more vulnerable to Plaintiff's abusive tactics in
coercing a settlement. See id. at 14-15.
reply, Plaintiff responds that Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 41 protects Defendant from Plaintiff's
voluntary dismissal because Defendant has already answered
the Complaint. See Pl.'s Reply in Supp. of Mot.
to Dismiss Counterclaims (“Pl.'s Reply”)
9-14, ECF No. 28. Plaintiff further responds that “a
corporate entity itself does not commit copyright
infringement, ” which is the reason why it named
Defendant in its Complaint and not Greenwood Digital. See
id. at 15-16. Plaintiff maintains that Defendant can
provide no evidence of abuse of process and that it has
litigated in good faith. See id.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving
party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been
stated. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750
(3d Cir. 2005). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6), a court must take all allegations in the complaint
as true and view them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 501
(1975); Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage
Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).
a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations,
“a plaintiff's obligation to provide the
‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief'
requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007). Thus, the factual allegations must be sufficient
to raise a plaintiff's right to relief above a
speculative level, such that it is “plausible on its
face.” See Id. at 570; see also Umland v.
PLANCO Fin. Serv., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008).
A claim has “facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556). While “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to
a ‘probability requirement' . . . it asks for more
than a sheer possibility.” Id.
Court first addresses Defendant's counterclaim for a
declaratory judgment before turning to his abuse of process
counterclaim. Ultimately, the Court finds that a declaratory
judgment would be redundant to a determination on the merits
of Plaintiff's infringement claim but also ...