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Raw Films, Ltd. v. John Does 1-15

March 23, 2012

RAW FILMS, LTD.
v.
JOHN DOES 1-15



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.

MEMORANDUM

The plaintiff filed this suit on November 21, 2011, alleging that each of fifteen Doe defendants infringed the copyright in its motion picture by reproducing and distributing it over the Internet using a peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol called BitTorrent. The Doe defendants are identified solely by internet protocol ("IP") addresses corresponding to the Internet connections alleged to have been used to infringe the plaintiff's copyright. The Court granted an earlier motion by the plaintiff for leave to file subpoenas on the Internet Service Providers ("ISP") servicing the IP addresses identified in the complaint to help determine the identity of the Doe defendants. No Doe defendant to date has been identified by the plaintiff or served with the complaint. Two of the Doe defendants, made aware of the subpoenas by their ISPs, have moved to quash those subpoenas and sever the case as to all other Doe defendants. Because the joinder of the fifteen Doe defendants is proper and quashing the subpoenas issued would be inappropriate at this stage of the litigation, the Court will deny the defendants' motions.

I. Complaint

The plaintiff claims that the Doe defendants, each

identified only by an IP address, willfully copied, reproduced, redistributed, performed, and displayed its motion picture, "Bareback Street Gang" (the "Work") by means of the file-sharing protocol known as BitTorrent, in violation of federal copyright law, 17 U.S.C. § 106(1) et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 44-49.

A. BitTorrent

According to the plaintiff, the BitTorrent protocol

facilitates file-sharing by permitting multiple users to download and upload the same file simultaneously. An initial "seeder" begins the process by using a BitTorrent client program to break the file intended for sharing ("original file") into identically sized "pieces," each of which has a unique alphanumeric hash code, and creating a "torrent," which records those hash codes and permits other client programs to identify, download, and reassemble the pieces into the original file. Id. ¶¶ 13-21.

When other users, known as "peers," download the torrent file, the BitTorrent protocol signals that those peers are seeking to download the original file, and the seeder begins to distribute pieces to those users. Once a peer has downloaded a piece, it serves as a source of that piece to other peers possessing the torrent and seeking to download the original file. When a peer has downloaded all of the pieces, the client program continues to distribute the file like the initial seeder. In this way, the initial seeder and peers serve to share and distribute the original file in an activity known as a "swarm." Id. ¶¶ 28-31.

B. Activity of Does 1-15

Each of the Doe defendants is alleged to have

participated in the same "swarm" sharing and distributing the plaintiff's Work. Id. ¶ 32. The plaintiff used forensic software to track and identify BitTorrent activity involving a specific copy of the Work that was identified by its own "Unique Hash Number." The investigation identified fifteen IP addresses, corresponding to the Doe defendants here, that participated in the same swarm by transmitting a piece of this version of the Work using the BitTorrent protocol. Each IP address connected to a server established by the plaintiff's investigator and transmitted a piece of the same copy of a file constituting the plaintiff's Work between July and October 2011. Id. ¶¶ 35-40, Ex. A.

By participating in the same swarm, the defendants are each alleged to have directly infringed the plaintiff's copyright in the Work and to have "induced, caused[,] or materially contributed to the infringing conduct" of the other defendants. Id. ¶¶ 48, 54.

II. Procedural History

After the plaintiff filed suit but before ...


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