Naming IP Address Subscriber “Objectively Reasonable”

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that naming an IP address subscriber as a defendant is “objectively reasonable.”

In the case of Malibu Media v. Pelizzo the defendant demanded costs and fees after being named in a BitTorrent copyright case. A key issue was whether or not Malibu Media named the defendant in good faith when his IP address was shown to have been the source of notable infringing activity. Later evidence indicated that Pelizzo himself might not be the infringer.   Once it appeared Pelizzo might not be the infringer, Malibu offered to dismiss the case but Pelizzo rejected Malibu’s offer and demanded costs and fees. The District Court denied Pelizzo his attorney fees under the Copyright Act and Pelizzo appealed. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court and stated:

We find no abuse of discretion in the district court’s conclusion … that Malibu’s subjective motivation for filing suit was not improper or that the suit was not frivolous… To whomever the subject IP address was subscribed, it is undisputed that a genuinely phenomenal number of films was being downloaded using it. …   Because of the nature of the films, Pelizzo justly was ashamed to be a part of the litigation, but the magistrate judge found no record evidence that Malibu sued him for that reason, and Pelizzo has not presented any such evidence. Using detection methods it had used hundreds of times before, Malibu determined that the IP address apparently assigned to Pelizzo was the vehicle for the infringements and acted accordingly.

We also find no abuse of discretion in the district court’s conclusion that Malibu, up to a point, acted in an objectively reasonable manner and in a manner that served the purposes of the Copyright Act: compensation and deterrence. Contrary to Pelizzo’s assertion, Malibu could not have been expected simply to take his word for the fact that he had not infringed Malibu’s copyrights, given the substantial evidence implicating Pelizzo.

 A ruling that Pelizzo should be awarded $6,815.50, for what the Court called a “knee-jerk” reaction to Pelizzo’s initial demand for fees was not changed, but the court verified that the $24,000 in attorney fees sought by Pelizzo was properly denied.

The case is Malibu Media v. Leo Pelizzo, 14-11795 (11th Cir, 2015)
(S.D. FL. D.C. Docket No. 1:12-cv-22768-PAS)

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