Ruling Over Offshore Online Adult Companies Withdrawn

Rhett Pardon
SAN FRANCISCO — Without comment, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday threw out a March decision that brought to light the invincibility of thousands of offshore companies that operate websites targeting U.S. porn surfers.

The case involved Ronald B. Brockmeyer, owner of Eromedia and several online adult sites, who filed a copyright and trademark infringement action against several defendants, including England’s Marquis Publications.

Specifically, the case asked whether U.S. companies can legally serve court papers through standard mail to foreign post office boxes. The three-judge panel said that such service is valid in March, but that decision was withdrawn Monday.

Brockmeyer mailed a copy of the summons and complaint to Marquis, a corporation organized and existing under the laws of England, at a post office box address listed in the 1997 edition of Marquis Magazine.

Brockmeyer eventually obtained a default judgment against Marquis for $424,000 because the company did not respond to court papers.

Marquis moved to set aside the default judgment on the grounds that service was improper under the Hague Convention, which consists of most westernized countries including the Bahamas and Caribbean, because Brockmeyer sent the summons and complaint by regular mail to Marquis’ post office box instead of its registered address.

The district court denied Marquis’ motion to set aside the default judgment, holding that the Hague Convention permits service of process by mail, and the 9th Circuit agreed with the March decision.

Judge Barry Silverman, who wrote for the majority of the court in the March ruling said that it held “such service is valid because Article 10(a) of the Hague Convention allows for service by mail and England’s domestic laws do not prohibit service by mail to a post office box.”

But now the case has been withdrawn and will likely be reheard by the full 9th Circuit panel.

The case is Brockmeyer vs. Marquis Publications, No. 02-56283.