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Pacific Century Int'l, Ltd v. John Doe

June 27, 2012

PACIFIC CENTURY INT'L, LTD., PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN DOE, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

On June 21, 2012, the court held a hearing on a motion to quash filed by an unidentified John Doe, a second motion to quash filed by non-party John Doe IP Address 174.66.234.164, and a motion for protective order and motion for reconsideration filed by non-party John Doe IP Address 174.66.128.247. Doc. Nos. 11, 13 and 17. Brett Gibbs appeared for plaintiff. Nicholas Ranallo appeared for non-party John Doe IP Address 174.66.128.247. Upon review of the motions, hearing the arguments of counsel and good cause appearing therefor, THE COURT FINDS AS FOLLOWS:

RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND A. The Complaint

This action was filed on December 30, 2011 and is proceeding on a first amended complaint ("FAC") filed January 5, 2012. The FAC names a single defendant, John Doe IP Address 76.114.33.61. See FAC, Ex. A. Plaintiff alleges that this John Doe and certain co-conspirators, who are not named as defendants in the FAC, illegally downloaded plaintiff's copyrighted creative work, an adult video ("the Work"), from BitTorrent, a file sharing method that distributes data over the Internet. According to plaintiff, John Doe IP Address 76.114.33.61 and his co-conspirators participated in a "peer-to-peer" ("P2P") network in which they exchanged the Work using BitTorrent, thereby taking part in a civil conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.

Plaintiff states that it knows the Doe defendant and his co-conspirators only by their IP addresses, which were identified by plaintiff's agents "observ[ing] unlawful reproduction and distribution occurring among IP addresses listed on Exhibit A ... via the BitTorrent Internet protocol." FAC at ¶ 4. Exhibit A to the FAC lists the IP addresses of the Doe defendant and the co-conspirators, as well as the date and time in which the individuals at these IP addresses allegedly engaged in acts of infringement. Id., Ex. A.

Plaintiff brings suit for copyright infringement, civil conspiracy and contributory infringement. Plaintiffs seek an award for both injunctive and monetary relief. Plaintiff also declares its intent to seek leave of court to amend the FAC to join John Doe IP Address 76.114.33.61's co-conspirators as defendants. B. The Ex Parte Application for Leave to Take Early Discovery Because plaintiff knew the Doe defendant and the co-conspirators' identities only by their IP addresses, plaintiff sought leave on January 12, 2012 to take early discovery ("the Application") in order to subpoena the Internet Service Providers ("ISP") of the IP addresses associated with the single John Doe defendant and the multiple non-party co-conspirators. Doc. No. 7. In support of the Application, plaintiff submitted the declaration of Peter Hansmeier, a technician for Media Copyright Group, LLP ("MCG"), explaining how plaintiff had identified the IP addresses of John Doe and the non-party co-conspirators. Application, Ex. A.

C. Order Granting Leave to Take Early Discovery

On January 19, 2012, the undersigned granted the Application, authorizing plaintiff to serve Rule 45 subpoenas on the ISPs named in Exhibit A of the Complaint. The subpoenas required the ISPs to notify subscribers of the IP addresses whose information was to be released so that the subscribers would have an opportunity to file objections or motions to quash with the court.

D. The Objection, Motions to Quash and Motion for Protective Order On February 27, 2012, non-party subscriber Tony Truong filed objections to the potential disclosure of his personal and/or identifying information. Doc. No. 10. Truong is a resident of Rosemead, California, which is located in the Central District of California. The subpoena to Charter Communications, Truong's ISP, issued from the Northern District of Illinois. See Doc. No. 10 at 3.

On March 5, 2012, a motion to quash was filed by an unidentified individual. Doc. No. 11. The motion avers that personal jurisdiction in Illinois is lacking. Id. The court presumes that this subpoena also issued from the a federal court in Illinois.

On May 9, 2012, a second motion to quash was filed by John Doe IP Address 174.66.234.164. Doc. No. 13. This motion moves to quash the subpoena on four grounds: first, on the basis of lack of personal jurisdiction as this individual neither resides in nor can be found in the Eastern District of California; second, on the ground of improper joinder of parties; third, on the ground that the method of tracing IP addresses is unreliable; and, finally, on the ground that the method for tracing the Media Access Control ("MAC address") that identifies the specific device that allegedly downloaded the Work is unreliable.

On May 21, 2012, a motion for protective order and motion for reconsideration was filed by John Doe IP Address 174.66.128.247. Doc. No. 17. This motion seeks a protective order because the plaintiff failed to show good cause for the expedited discovery as to the alleged co-conspirators, plaintiff failed to allege that the named defendant ever interacted with any of the alleged co-conspirators; the early discovery is irrelevant (namely, the co-conspirator discovery is unnecessary to identify the named John Doe defendant, plaintiff's assertion that it will seek leave to join the co-conspirators is insufficient to support its request for early discovery, and the requested discovery is irrelevant to the computation of damages against the named John Doe defendant); identification of an IP address does not identify the individual who downloaded a copyrighted work; to protect movant from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression and/or undue burden or expense; and because plaintiff failed to comply with this court's January 19, 2012 order authorizing expedited discovery.

E. Plaintiff's Response

1. Motion to Quash

In response to the motion to quash filed by John Doe IP Address 174.66.234.164, plaintiff first seeks dismissal of the motion on procedural grounds. That is, plaintiff argues that movant lacks standing as he is not yet a party to this action; that, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(c)(3)(A), movant's motion should be brought in the court that issued the subpoena (the Southern District of Florida); and that movant's motion ...


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