from the don't-ignore-cases dept
We’ve talked plenty of times about issues with “default judgments” in lawsuits. Generally speaking, if the party being sued doesn’t show up, judges will usually grant the plaintiff’s claim, and issue a default judgment in their favor. The thing is, courts don’t have to issue default judgments, but many courts act as if they do. Even then, the courts have significant power in then determining what the awards are in those cases. So while it’s not surprising that a court issued a default judgment against someone in a copyright trolling case where the person (Gerald Glover) chose not to respond to the lawsuit, it’s somewhat ridiculous that the judge then granted the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 for the claimed copyright infringement (plus another $1425 in fees and costs). As you probably know, statutory damages for copyright range from $750 to $30,000 per work infringed (not per infringement…), but then also allow for the court to increase it up to a maximum of $150,000 in the case where a copyright holder has proven that the infringement was willful.
Given that, it’s somewhat troubling that the court awarded the absolute maximum here. It’s unclear how there is proof of willful infringement. The complaint against Glover just makes general allegation of using BitTorrent to download and share the copyright-covered work, but does nothing to show willful infringement. I recognize that judges will often rubber stamp motions for default judgment, but can’t they at least take the minimum amount of time necessary to note if the awarded amount is proper?
While the DieTrollDie site (which alerted us to this story) notes that it’s unlikely that the copyright holder CP Productions will actually see any money from Glover, what’s much more worrisome is that other copyright trolls will point to this default ruling as proof that simple downloading can get you hit with a $150,000 judgment (skipping over the fact that it’s a default judgment).