United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LORETTA C. BIGGS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. (“JHP”), brings this
action against Defendants, Danny L. Hayes, Jr. and The House
of Fish, Inc. (“Defendants”) for alleged
violations of 47 U.S.C. §§ 553 and 605 (cable and
satellite piracy), as well as 17 U.S.C. §§ 106 and
501 (copyright infringement). (ECF No. 12.) Defendants
counterclaim for a declaratory judgment that 47 U.S.C.
§§ 553 and 605 are unconstitutional. (ECF No. 13 at
4, 6-7.) Before the Court is JHP's Motion to Dismiss
Defendants' Counterclaim pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and,
implicitly, 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
(ECF Nos. 15, 17.) For the reasons that follow, the Court
will grant JHP's motion.
alleged in its Amended Complaint, JHP was “granted the
exclusive right to commercially distribute the audiovisual
presentation of the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Conor
McGregor boxing match” (the
“Program”), which was telecast nationwide on
August 26, 2017. (ECF No. 12 ¶¶ 5, 10.) After
obtaining distribution rights, JHP sublicensed the Program
for exhibition to thousands of commercial establishments in
exchange for licensing fees. (Id. ¶ 10.) Even
though the Program was available for licensing, JHP alleges
that Defendants “chose not to contract with [JHP] and
pay the proper commercial license fee.” (Id.
¶ 11.) Instead, JHP alleges that Defendants
“unlawfully obtained the Program through an
unauthorized cable signal, satellite signal, and/or internet
stream” and “charged patrons $15.00 to enter and
view the Program” at their business establishment, The
House of Fish. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 16.)
filed suit in June of 2018, alleging violations of the
Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C.
§§ 553 and 605, which prohibit cable and satellite
piracy, as well as the Copyright Act of the United States, 17
U.S.C. § 101, et seq. (ECF No. 12 ¶¶
19-26.) In response, Defendants answered and counterclaimed
for a declaratory judgment that 47 U.S.C. §§ 553
and 605 are unconstitutional. (ECF No. 13 at 4, 6-7.)
Specifically, Defendants allege that these provisions violate
the “First and Fifth Amendments, in that the statutes
are penal and punitive in nature, are void for vagueness, are
overbroad, and violate the fundamentals of due process,
including, but not limited to, the lack of sufficient notice
to Defendants and lack of guidance for enforcement.”
(Id. at 6.) Defendants further contend that the
statutes are “ambiguous” and, therefore, also
seek “a declaration of the exact terms and meaning of
the statutes” so that they may better understand their
“rights and duties” and conform their conduct to
the law. (Id. at 7.)
moves to dismiss Defendants' counterclaim pursuant to
Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. (See ECF Nos. 15, 17.)
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Rule 12(b)(1), a party may seek dismissal based on the
court's “lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A motion under
Rule 12(b)(1) raises the question of “whether [the
claimant] has a right to be in the district court at all and
whether the court has the power to hear and dispose of [the]
claim.” Holloway v. Pagan River Dockside Seafood,
Inc., 669 F.3d 448, 452 (4th Cir. 2012). Under Article
III of the United States Constitution, the jurisdiction of a
federal court is limited to cases and controversies, which
implicates certain doctrines, including standing.
See U.S. Const. art. III, § 2; Susan B.
Anthony List v. Driehaus, 573 U.S. 149, 157 n.5 (2014).
A court's jurisdiction is likewise limited to cases and
controversies when considering actions for declaratory
relief. Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S.
227, 240 (1937).
burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on the
plaintiff. Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642,
647 (4th Cir. 1999). However, when evaluating a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion to dismiss, the court should grant the motion
“only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in
dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a
matter of law.” Richmond, Fredericksburg &
Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768
(4th Cir. 1991).
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure “challenges the legal sufficiency of a
complaint, ” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d
186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009); “it does not resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the
applicability of defenses.” Republican Party v.
Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992).
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.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A complaint may fail to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted in two ways: first, by failing to state
a valid legal cause of action, i.e., a cognizable
claim, see Holloway, 669 F.3d at 452; or second, by
failing to allege sufficient facts to support a legal cause
of action, see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v.
Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). Finally, in
evaluating whether a claim is stated, “[the] court
accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, ” but
need not accept “legal conclusions, elements of a cause
of action, . . . bare assertions devoid of further factual
enhancement[, ] . . . unwarranted inferences, unreasonable
conclusions, or arguments.” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd.
v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 255 (4th
Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).