A Hawaiian federal court has denied a motion for entry of default against torrent site YTS. The request, which came from the makers of the movie Hellboy, was denied because the underlying copyright infringement complaint failed to name a defendant other than “John Doe”. Soon after, the attorney handling the case was cautioned for summoning a person and company, who were not named defendants.
Popular torrent site YTS has become the target of three different copyright infringement lawsuits in the U.S. this year.
The most recent one was filed by HB Productions, the makers of the movie Hellboy, owned by parent company Millennium Funding.
The complaint in question lists a “John Doe” as the defendant who supposedly operates YTS. However, HB Productions believes that a person named Senthil Vijay Segaran and the company Techmodo Limited are involved.
The latter two were recently ‘summoned’ to respond to the complaint but neither did. This prompted the Hellboy makers to request an ‘entry of default‘ against YTS.
If granted, this would open the door to default judgment where the movie company can request damages, without any defense from the opposing party. In this case, however, it didn’t get that far.
In a recently issued order, Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield denied the motion. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the defendants to be officially named, which didn’t happen in this case, the Judge points out.
“As a practical matter, it is impossible to serve a summons and complaint on an anonymous defendant. The Ninth Circuit therefore disfavors the use of doe defendants, and Plaintiff’s tactics highlight the problems in proceeding with doe defendants,” Judge Mansfield writes.
This means that the movie company can’t submit a motion for default judgment yet. As such, it can’t demand damages or request a permanent injunction to target the site’s domain registrar. And that wasn’t all.
A few days after the denial, Judge Mansfield cautioned HB Production’s attorney, Kerry Culpepper, noting that the court doesn’t permit him to summon persons or entities who are not named defendants.
“It is improper for Plaintiff to attempt to effect service on a person or entity Plaintiff believes to be a doe defendant without properly amending its complaint to identify the doe defendant by name. It is equally improper for Mr. Culpepper to direct summonses to persons and/or entities who are not named defendants in an action,” the Judge notes.
As a result, the proofs of service for these summonses were stricken from the record. The same is true in two other related cases, which center around YTS as well.
In one of these cases, filed by Millennium Funding and several related movie outfits, Culpepper filed an amended complaint last week, naming three defendants, including Senthil Vijay Segaran and the company Techmodo Limited. In the two other cases, no amended complaint has been filed thus far.
With three separate and similar cases, the movie companies will likely push for some kind of compensation. Whether that’s through a default judgment, a trial, or a private settlement has yet to be seen. In any case, YTS is under pressure.
Anticipating possible domain issues, YTS previously moved from YTS.am to YTS.lt, where it is still operating from today. For now, it will likely continue to do so.