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Liberty Media Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-62

February 24, 2012

LIBERTY MEDIA HOLDINGS, LLC,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DOES 1-62, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

ORDER RE: MOTIONS TO QUASH SUBPOENA AND DISMISS; AND [Doc Nos. 12, 14, 16, 23]

Currently before the Court are the motions of Doe Defendants 29, 48, and 5 to quash pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(c)(3) and motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3). [Doc. Nos. 14, 16, 23.] Also before the Court is Doe No. 38's "Objection to Subpoena," which the Court construes as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2). [Doc. No. 12.] For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the motions to quash and the motions to dismiss without prejudice.

BACKGROUND

On March 22, 2011, Plaintiff Liberty Media Holdings, LLC, filed this action against sixty-two Doe Defendants, alleging Defendants infringed on Plaintiff's copyright to the motion picture "Down on the Farm" (the "film") by allegedly reproducing and distributing the film using an internet peer-to-peer file sharing network known as BitTorrent. Plaintiff alleges that Doe Defendants are "a group of BitTorrent users or peers whose computers are collectively interconnected for the sharing of a particular unique file, otherwise known as a 'swarm.'" [Compl., Doc No. 1, ¶ 13.] Plaintiff's complaint asserts claims of copyright infringement (17 U.S.C. § 501), contributory copyright infringement, conspiracy, and negligence.

The Complaint alleges: "The Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendants, as Defendants either reside in, solicit, transact, or are doing business within the Jurisdiction; they have committed to [sic] unlawful and tortious acts both within and outside the Jurisdiction with the full knowledge that their acts would cause injury in this Jurisdiction." [Compl. ¶ 6.] The Complaint also states that venue is proper: "Although the true identities of each and every member of the collective formed by the Defendants is unknown to the Plaintiff at this time, on information and belief, each Defendant may be found in this District and/or a substantial part of the infringing acts complained of herein occurred in this District, and Defendants can reasonably anticipate being haled into court in this District." [Compl. ¶ 9.]

Plaintiff identified IP addresses associated with each of the sixty-two Doe Defendants and moved this Court for permission to take early discovery to subpoena the identities of all Doe Defendants from their respective Internet Service Providers ("ISPs"). [Doc. No. 3.] On May 12, 2011, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to take early discovery for the limited purpose of identifying the identities of the Doe Defendants. [Doc. No. 5.] However, the Court required the ISPs to notify subscribers of the opportunity to object to the Court's jurisdiction and/or move to quash the subpoenas prior to disclosure of the information sought. [Id.]

On June 23, 2011, Doe 38 objected to the subpoena because the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him/her. [Doc. No. 13.] On June 23, 2011, Doe 29 filed a motion to quash the subpoena and a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and misjoinder. [Doc. No. 14.] On June 27, 2011, Doe 48 filed a motion to dismiss and motion to quash the subpoena for lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and asserting affirmative defenses to the claims against her. [Doc. No. 16.] Doe 48 also moves, in the alternative, for transfer of venue to Virginia, her state of residence. On July 8, 2011, Doe 5 filed a motion to quash and motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. These four Doe Defendants (together, "Movants") are proceeding pro se. Pursuant to the Court's June 27, 2011 order [Doc. No. 17], Plaintiff filed a consolidated response [Doc. No. 24] to these pending motions. Plaintiff filed a supplemental response [Doc. No. 27] to the fourth pending motion. In addition, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Does 25, 26, 27, 35, 40, 42, and 51 from the action. [Doc. Nos. 6, 7, 9, 10, 18-20, 28, 29] and entered into stipulated settlements with Does 8 and 37. [Doc. Nos. 31, 35.]

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Rule 45(c)(3), a court must modify or quash a subpoena that, inter alia, "requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter, if no exception or waiver applies, or subjects a person to undue burden." Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A).

Quashing subpoenas "goes against courts' general preference for a broad scope of discovery, [but] limiting discovery is appropriate when the burden of providing the documents outweighs the need for it." Call of the Wild Movie, LLC v. Does 1-1,062, 770 F. Supp. 2d 332, 354-355 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing North Carolina Right to Life, Inc. v. Leake, 231 F.R.D. 49, 51 (D.D.C. 2005) (internal citations omitted). "When evaluating whether the burden of subpoena compliance is "undue," the court balances the burden imposed on the party subject to the subpoena by the discovery request, the relevance of the information sought to the claims or defenses at issue, the breadth of the discovery request, and the litigant's need for the information. Id. "Whether a burdensome subpoena is reasonable must be determined according to the facts of the case, such as the party's need for the documents and the nature and importance of the litigation." Id. (quoting Linder v. DOD, 133 F.3d 17, 24 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (internal quotations omitted). The court must limit discovery when the "burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii).

DISCUSSION

1. Motions to Quash or Dismiss Based on Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

Movants argue the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them because they do not reside in California, they are not engaged in any business in California, and they lack sufficient minimum contacts with the forum to be subject to jurisdiction in California. In response, Plaintiff argues that in a copyright infringement case, jurisdiction is proper where the copyright owner is located. Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, 606 F.3d 1124 (9th Cir. 2010); Righthaven LLC v. South Coast Partners, Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12802 (D. Nev. Feb 5, 2011). Plaintiff also argues it is premature to evaluate any jurisdictional defenses at this time since Doe Defendants have not been formally named and served with the complaint. According to Plaintiff, Doe Defendants may not even be named as Defendants, as some of them claim their internet account was used by third-parties.

"Personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is tested by a two-part analysis. First, the exercise of jurisdiction must satisfy the requirements of the applicable state long-arm statute. Second, the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with federal due process." Liberty Media Holdings, LLC v. Tabora, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1101, 4-7 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 4, 2012) (citing Chan v. Soc'y Expeditions, Inc., 39 F.3d 1398, 1404-05 (9th Cir. 1994). California's long-arm statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code ยง 410.10, allows courts to "exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of [California] or of the United States." Id. "This provision allows courts to exercise jurisdiction to the limits of the Due Process Clause of the U.S. ...


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