IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
March 20, 2012
MILLENNIUM TGA, INC., PLAINTIFF,
JOHN DOE, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff Millennium TGA, Inc. ("plaintiff") previously filed an ex parte application for leave to take expedited discovery on January 6, 2012. (App. for Expedited Discovery, Dkt. No. 7.) That application was denied on January 23, 2012. (Order, Dkt. No. 8.)
Presently before the court is plaintiff's amended ex parte application for leave to take expedited discovery, which plaintiff filed on January 30, 2012. (Amended App. for Expedited Discovery, Dkt. No. 9.) As with its original ex parte application, plaintiff did not notice its amended ex parte application for hearing. The undersigned concludes that oral argument would not be of material assistance in resolving the amended application.
Accordingly, the application will be decided on the papers submitted.*fn1
Through plaintiff's application for expedited discovery, plaintiff again seeks permission to serve a discovery subpoena upon a third party named Joe Vasquez ("Mr. Vasquez" or "the account holder"), who is the "account holder associated with" the Internet Protocol ("IP") address "126.96.36.199," which was allegedly used in connection with infringement upon plaintiff's copyrighted adult video entitled Ladyboy - Ladyboy - Kae ("Video"). Although plaintiff alleges that Mr. Vasquez is the "holder" of the account allegedly used to infringe upon plaintiff's copywritten Video, plaintiff has not formally named Mr. Vasquez as a defendant in this action because "the relationship between an account holder and infringer can be imperfect." (Complaint, ("Compl."), Dkt. No. 2 ¶ 1; App. for Expedited Discovery at 9; Amended App. for Expedited Discovery at 9.) Instead, plaintiff requests expedited discovery (in the form of deposing Mr. Vasquez as a third party), purportedly to obtain the identities of the defendant(s) alleged to have used Mr. Vasquez's account associated with IP address "188.8.131.52" to infringe on plaintiff's rights in regards to the Video. (Amended App. for Expedited Discovery at 5; App. for Expedited Discovery at 5; see also Compl. ¶¶ 1-4, 19-37.)
The undersigned has considered plaintiff's amended application and, for the reasons discussed below, the undersigned denies plaintiff's amended ex parte application to conduct limited early discovery pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d)(1).
On November 21, 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint for copyright
civil conspiracy against John Doe, an unnamed defendant.*fn2
(Compl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff is a producer of adult entertainment content, and is alleged to be the exclusive
holder of the relevant rights with respect to the Video. (Compl. ¶¶
3-4.) In the course of monitoring Internet-based infringement of its
copyrighted content, plaintiff's agents allegedly observed unlawful
reproduction and distribution of the Video occurring over a particular
IP address via the Bit Torrent file transfer protocol, the mechanics
of which are further described in the Complaint.*fn3
(Compl. ¶¶ 5, 14-18, 22-24.) According to plaintiff, it has already determined that a person named Joe Vasquez ("Mr. Vasquez") is the account holder of the IP address involved. (Amended App. for Expedited Discovery at 5.) According to plaintiff, Mr. Vasquez is the only person "with information that can allow Plaintiff to identify the true infringer," yet Mr. Vasquez has "merely ignored" all efforts to meet and confer regarding the true infringer's identity. (Id. at 5; 9.)
As noted above, plaintiff previously filed an ex parte application for leave to take expedited discovery (App. for Expedited Discovery, Dkt. No. 7), and that application was denied on January 23, 2012. (Order, Dkt. No. 8.) The undersigned denied plaintiff's ex parte application because plaintiff had failed to demonstrate good cause for the expedited discovery plaintiff requested. (Order at 3-8.) The Order also separately raised the undersigned's concern about plaintiff's failure to provide a signed declaration supporting the many factual allegations made in the ex parte application. (Id. at 8-9 ("The undersigned is also troubled by plaintiff's failure to substantiate certain claims made in its moving papers[,]" such as counsel's efforts to communicate with the account holder and counsel's representations about the scope of questions to be asked should the account holder be deposed.).)
Now, plaintiff again asks the court to authorize service of a third party deposition subpoena upon the account holder. Plaintiff again states that, in some cases, an account holder may be able to offer a credible explanation for why he or she is not the infringer and may be able to identify the actual infringer, such as another household member or tenant. (Amended App. for Expedited Discovery at 5; App. for Expedited Discovery at 5.) Plaintiff again contends that it cannot proceed in the action without ascertaining the likely infringer's identity, and that Mr. Vasquez is the only person with information that can allow plaintiff to identify the actual infringer and permit service of process on that individual. (Amended App. for Expedited Discovery at 5; App. for Expedited Discovery at 5.)
Plaintiff's amended ex parte application raises the same legal arguments plaintiff
raised in its original ex parte application. (Compare Amended App. for Expedited Discovery with App. for Expedited Discovery (both arguing that "good cause" exists for expedited discovery, and that a deposition of the account holder would be minimally burdensome and reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of the infringer's identity.) The difference between the two applications is that the factual statements within the amended application are supported by a signed declaration from plaintiff's counsel. (Declaration of Brett Gibbs ("Gibbs Decl."), Dkt. No. 9-1 at 2-5.) Attorney Gibbs attests to his firm's efforts to contact the account holder (id. ¶¶ 2-8), as well as to his intent to depose the account holder by asking only limited questions designed to reveal the "actual infringer" and to "minimize the burden" on the account holder (id. ¶ 9-12).
While the undersigned appreciates plaintiff's renewed diligence in
providing a signed declaration to substantiate the factual
representations within the moving papers, the undersigned denies
plaintiff's amended application. Under the same legal analyses
described in the undersigned's Order of January 23, 2012, the entirety
of which is incorporated by reference here, plaintiff's amended
application fails to show the existence of good cause*fn4
warranting the use of expedited discovery. (See Order, Dkt.
No. 9 at 3-7 (applying the "good cause" analysis of Semitool, Inc. v.
Tokyo Electron. Am. Inc., 208 F.R.D. 273, 276 (N.D. Cal. 2002),
discussing authorities, including UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Doe, No.
C--08-03999 RMW, 2008 WL 4104207, at *1-3 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 4, 2008
(unpublished); Arista Records LLC v. Does 1-43, No. 07cv2357-LAB
(POR), 2007 WL 4538697, at *1-2 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 20, 2007)
(unpublished).) Likewise, plaintiff has not shown that "good cause"
outweighs the likely prejudice*fn5 that
would result from deposing the account holder.*fn6 (See
Order, Dkt. No. 8 at 5-8 (recognizing that courts have granted
expedited discovery in the form of limited document requests to obtain
the name and contact information of account holders, explaining that
plaintiff already has this contact information, and explaining that
plaintiff's proposed oral deposition of the account holder is much
broader in that it seeks "facts about [the account holder's]
involvement, if any, with the unauthorized distribution of Plaintiff's
video(s) via [the account holder's] IP address; to learn about [the
account holder's] computers and network setup; to assess [the account
holder's] technical savvy; and to identify any other persons who had
access to [the account holder's] computer and network" (citing App.
for Expedited Discovery at 11)*fn7 .)
The undersigned again finds that plaintiff has not shown that good cause exists for the discovery requested. In light of "the entirety of the record . . . and the reasonableness of the request in light of all the surrounding circumstances," plaintiff has failed to demonstrate the requisite good cause. See Semitool, Inc., 208 F.R.D. at 275 (citation & quotation marks omitted) (emphasis removed); Am. Legalnet, 673 F. Supp. 2d at 1067. Again, assuming plaintiff has a good faith basis for its claims, plaintiff can name the account holder as a defendant, serve him with process, hold the Rule 26(f) conference, and conduct any discovery necessary. Procedural vehicles exist to later add and/or dismiss defendants based on additional facts discovered, if necessary.
Accordingly, for the reasons discussed above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's amended ex parte application for leave to take expedited discovery (Amended App. for Expedited Discovery, Dkt. No. 9) is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.