Malibu Media v. Does – The Maryland “Battle Royale”

The drama of BitTorrent culture with its free and open exchange of information through the Internet regularly buts heads with fundamental copyrights. There are those that want the Internet to live up to the promise of being the most complete free library in the world, and those that oppose their works, mainly movies and music, being pirated or stolen though online technologies.

In this conflict there has been a recent showdown in Maryland. With a large number of cases pending before the Maryland courts, several were consolidated before a three-judge panel to hear both sides. Much was made of this by the defendants, (presumably being those caught pirating movies) that oppose copyright enforcement. The arguments were comprehensive, exhaustive, and at times downright speculative. It was clear the three-judge panel was taking this seriously and this was going to be a bellwether event where all the allegations of improper enforcement would have their day and “the light of truth” would shine through.

Those defending against copyright enforcement claims were making a number of very aggressive arguments including:

  • An IP address is not proper or sufficient to identify an infringer.
  • The plaintiff Malibu Media had engaged in abusive tactics.
  • Malibu Media used investigation techniques that were flawed.
  • The investigators used by Malibu Media were improperly hired on a contingency fee.
  • Malibu Media engaged in deception and fraud.
  • Malibu was involved in champerty (improper contingency fee arrangements).
  • Various other speculative arguments and claims.

In the end the three-judge panel took evidence and heard arguments and found the claims of those fighting enforcement were either improper or simply without basis.  The court specifically found that even if some of the allegations, such as experts working on a contingency agreement were true, such agreements were not improper in these cases. In short the court found, “These issues have little relevance…”

As to abuse, the court found the allegations without merit and, “To the best of this Court’s knowledge, Malibu has complied with these procedures and this Court is unaware of any allegations of abuse in this district.”

The court went on to state:

The subscribers’ other arguments in their motions are either premature or far too speculative for the Court to consider at this stage in the litigation. For example, each subscriber argues that Malibu is engaged in a course of deception and fraud. The subscribers rely heavily on parallels to Ingenuity 13, LLC v. John Doe, No. 2:12-cv-8333-ODW(JCx), 2013 WL 1898633 (C.D. Cal. May 6, 2013). However, Ingenuity 13 involved actual and documented fraud, misrepresentations to the Court, and clearly improper activity. Although the subscribers try to allege similar improprieties on Malibu’s part, there is not presently before the Court any indication that Malibu has done anything improper or fraudulent in these cases.

In sum, in the promoted “Battle Royale” in Maryland, defendants threw everything at the wall and nothing stuck.  The judges ruled the cases would go forward.

Consolidated cases:

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe, 14-cv-00223-MJG, (D. Md., Sept. 18, 2014)

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe, 14-cv-00257-RWT, (D. Md., Sept. 18, 2014)

Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe, 14-cv-00263-PWG, (D. Md., Sept. 18, 2014)


Consolidated opinion of the three-judge panel: Malibu Media v. Does – Maryland Bellwether


Edit / Update:

A similar outcome in a single party case from Michigan:  Malibu Media v. Pontello, 13-cv-12197 (E.D. Mich, July 16, 2014)


2 Thoughts on “Malibu Media v. Does – The Maryland “Battle Royale”

  1. Anonymous on March 24, 2015 at 11:04 pm said:

    “[I]t’s pretty obvious that somebody intentionally downloaded the picture and violated the copyright. It’s only a question of who that person is. It’s not likely — it’s not like nobody did it.” – Judge Garbis from the transcript of the hearing in this case, pg. 60.

    It seems like defense counsel invent creative arguments hoping judges will forget this fact.

  2. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which
    helped me. Thanks a lot!

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