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Malibu Media, LLC v. Peterson

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 1, 2017

MALIBU MEDIA, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN PETERSON, Defendant.

          ORDER (1) DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS AND (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO STRIKE (ECF NOS. 16, 17)

          Hon. Janis L. Sammartino, United States District Judge

         Presently before the Court are Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC's (1) Motion to Dismiss Defendant's Counterclaim, (“MTD, ” ECF No. 16), and Motion to Strike Defendant's Answer to Amended Complaint, (“MTS, ” ECF No. 17). Also before the Court are Defendant Kevin Peterson's oppositions to the MTD, (“MTD Opp'n, ” ECF No. 22), and the MTS, (“MTS Opp'n, ” ECF No. 23), and Plaintiff's reply in support of its MTD, (“MTD Reply, ” ECF No. 27), and MTS, (“MTS Reply, ” ECF No. 26). The Court vacated the hearing on the motions and took them under submission without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). (ECF No. 30.) After considering the parties' arguments and the law, the Court rules as follows.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC (d/b/a “X-Art.com”) is the registered owner of several copyrighted works. (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶¶ 3, 8, ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff accuses Defendant Kevin Peterson of infringing Plaintiff's copyrights by using the BitTorrent file distribution network (“BitTorrent”) to download, copy, and distribute Plaintiff's works over the Internet. (See Id. ¶¶ 10-25 (explaining the BitTorrent technology, the investigatory steps Plaintiff used to detect Defendant's alleged infringement, and noting that Defendant is a “habitual and persistent BitTorrent user and copyright infringer”).) Plaintiff brings a sole count of direct infringement under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., against Defendant Peterson. (See generally id.)

         Defendant filed an Answer to Plaintiff's FAC, asserting affirmative defenses and a counterclaim. (Answer, ECF No. 12.)

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Counterclaim and strike several of Plaintiff's affirmative defenses. The Court considers each of Plaintiff's motions in turn.

         I. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a party to raise by motion the defense that the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, ” generally referred to as a motion to dismiss. The Court evaluates whether a complaint states a cognizable legal theory and sufficient facts in light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' . . . it [does] demand more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A complaint will not suffice “if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.' ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled “allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). That is not to say that the claim must be probable, but there must be “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Facts “‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” fall short of a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, the Court need not accept as true “legal conclusions” contained in the complaint. Id. This review requires context-specific analysis involving the Court's “judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 678 (citation omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.' ” Id.

         Where a complaint does not survive 12(b)(6) analysis, the Court will grant leave to amend unless it determines that no modified contention “consistent with the challenged pleading . . . [will] cure the deficiency.” DeSoto v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 957 F.2d 655, 658 (9th Cir. 1992) (quoting Schriber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986)).

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiff argues that Defendant's counterclaim for declaratory relief is repetitious and unnecessary “because it merely restates issues that are already before this Court; namely, whether Defendant is liable for the alleged infringement.” (MTD 2, [1] ECF No. 16.) Defendant responds that while the Court has authority to dismiss redundant counterclaims, here the Court should not dismiss the counterclaim in order to prevent Plaintiff from seeking an “easy exit” once it has determined that Defendant has not infringed (i.e., Defendant might seek fees for having to defend this suit). (MTD Opp'n 3-4, ECF No. 22.) In relevant part, Defendant's counterclaim states:

1. Plaintiff has alleged a copyright infringement claim against Defendant based on the allegation that Defendant has downloaded or otherwise shared numerous works that purportedly belong to Plaintiff. . . .
3. Defendant has denied that they are responsible for downloading or otherwise sharing the works at ...

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