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Malibu Media, LLC, A California Corporation v. John Does 1 Through 12

October 11, 2012



In this action plaintiff alleges that Doe defendants 1 through 12 infringed on its copyright with respect to pornographic motion pictures, the graphic titles of which are identified in plaintiff's complaint. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that in the course of monitoring Internet-based infringement of its copyrighted content, its agents observed unlawful reproduction and distribution of the subject motion pictures by the 12 Doe defendants via the Bit Torrent file transfer protocol. Although plaintiff does not know the names of the Doe defendants, its agents created a log identifying the Doe defendants by IP addresses and the dates and times of their alleged unlawful activity. The IP addresses, internet service providers ("ISPs"), and dates and times of the alleged unlawful activity by the 12 Doe defendants are identified in an exhibit to plaintiff's complaint.

On May 14, 2012, plaintiff filed an ex parte application for expedited discovery to serve Rule 45 subpoenas on the ISPs to obtain the names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and Media Access Control ("MAC") addresses of the Doe defendants. (Doc. No. 7.) On July 11, 2012, the Magistrate Judge previously assigned to this civil action issued an order granting plaintiff's request for expedited discovery only as to Doe No. 1, and denying the requests as to Does No. 2 through 12 without prejudice. (Doc. No. 8.) On September 4, 2012, Doe No. 1 filed a motion to quash and the motion was set for hearing before the previously assigned Magistrate Judge on October 17, 2012. (Doc. Nos. 10 & 15.)

On October 3, 2012, however, a related case order was issued relating ten civil actions filed by plaintiff in 2012 in both divisions of this court, all of which named only Doe defendants and involved plaintiff moving for expedited discovery. (Doc. No. 16.) As a result of that order, all of those actions including this one were reassigned to the undersigned Magistrate Judge and to District Judge John A. Mendez. Accordingly, the October 17, 2012 hearing set before the previously assigned Magistrate Judge of the motion to quash filed by Doe. No. 1 was vacated. (Doc. No. 17.)

"[A] district court has the inherent power to revisit its non-final orders, and that power is not lost when the case is assigned mid-stream to a second judge." Dreith v. Nu Image, Inc., 648 F.3d 779, 787-88 (9th Cir. 2011). See also Perry v. Brown, 667 F.3d 1078, 1086 (9th Cir. 2012) ("As a case progresses and circumstances change, a court may sometimes properly revise a prior exercise of its discretion, whether the new order is made by the same judge or another."); City of L.A. v. Santa Monica BayKeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 888 (9th Cir. 2001) (district court is vested with the "power to reconsider its own interlocutory order provided that the district court has not been divested of jurisdiction over the order."); Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532-33 (9th Cir. 2000) ("[T]he District Court in its discretion may revisit prior interlocutory decisions entered by another judge in the same case if there are cogent reasons or exceptional circumstances."); United States v. Houser, 804 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1986) ("All rulings of a trial court are subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment."). "Generally stated, reconsideration is appropriate where . . . it is necessary to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians Cmty. v. California, 649 F. Supp.2d 1063, 1069 (E.D. Cal. 2009) (citing Sch. Dist. No. 1J Multnomah Cnty., Oregon v. AC & S Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993)). See also Christianson v. Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 817 (1988); Arizona v. California, 460 U.S. 605, 618 n. 8 (1983).

Here, the court has determined that reconsideration of the July 11, 2012 order is appropriate in order to prevent manifest injustice. In this regard, it appears clear to this court that plaintiff's joinder of 12 unrelated defendants is improper under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20. Given the technical complexities of BitTorrent swarm functions,*fn1 it appears unlikely that the 12 Doe defendants engaged in any coordinated effort or concerted activity. See, e.g., Boy Racer, Inc. v. Does 1-60, No. C 11-01738 SI, 2011 WL 3652521, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 19, 2011) ("Because Doe defendants 2-60 were improperly joined in the matter, the Court is authorized under Rule 21 to 'drop' these defendants."). Under these circumstances, permissive joinder under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2) is not warranted.*fn2 See Third Degree Films, Inc. v. Does 1-131, 280 F.R.D. 493, 495-500 (D. Ariz. 2012) (Surveying the various approaches to such cases and discovery requests taken by district courts around the country, determining that the joinder question should be addressed sua sponte at the outset of the litigation and ultimately dismissing Does 2 through 131 without prejudice and granting the requested expedited discovery only with respect to Doe defendant 1.) Accordingly, the court will recommend that Does 2 through 12 be dismissed without prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21.

Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. The hearing on the September 4, 2012 motion to quash filed by Doe No. 1 is set for Friday, November 30, 2012, at 10:00 a.m., in Courtroom No. 27, before the undersigned.*fn3

2. Any party may appear at the hearing telephonically. To arrange telephonic appearance, the party must contact Pete Buzo, courtroom deputy to the undersigned, at (916) 930-4128 not later than 48 hours before the hearing. A land line telephone number must be provided for the court's use in placing a call to the party appearing telephonically.

In addition, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that Does 2-12 be dismissed from this action without prejudice.

These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Any reply to the objections shall be served and filed within seven days after service of the objections.

The parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Martinez ...

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