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Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-15

July 30, 2012

MALIBU MEDIA, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN DOES 1-15, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Defendant, John Doe # 5's ("Defendant") Motion to Sever Doe # 5 as a Defendant and Motion to Quash the Subpoena filed by Plaintiff, Malibu Media ("Plaintiff"), and Plaintiff's Response in Opposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are denied.

I. FACTS

A. The Parties

Plaintiff, a corporation operating out of Malibu, California, engages in the production and sale of adult films. (Compl. at p. 2.) Plaintiff owns the copyright for the motion picture entitled "Veronica Wet Orgasm" (the "Work"). (Id. at p. 3.) The Work was registered on or about November 23, 2011. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that the fifteen Doe Defendants, who are identified solely by an internet protocol ("IP") address, willfully reproduced, redistributed, performed and displayed the Work in violation of various copyright laws.*fn1 (Id. at pp. 8-11.) One of these Defendants, Doe # 5 ("Defendant"), is a resident of the Borough of Macungie, Pennsylvania. (Def.'s Mot. 2.) RCN is a technology company that provides internet service to the Defendant. (Id.)

B. BitTorrent

BitTorrent is one of the most common peer-to-peer file sharing programs. (Compl. at p. 3.) Plaintiffs assert that it is estimated that users operating BitTorrent account for over a quarter of all internet traffic. (Id.) BitTorrent utilizes the internet to transfer files between interconnected computers. (Id.) BitTorrent enables users to download or upload large files without a heavy load on one source computer or network. (Id.) Initiating the process requires a seeder to create a torrent and upload it onto one or more torrent sites. (Id. at p. 6.) This enables other peers to download and upload the file using BitTorrent software that is installed on their computers. (Id.) Once a peer receives a piece of the computer file, it starts transmitting that piece to other peers. (Id.) The transmissions create a relationship between the seeders and peers called a "swarm." (Id.) Once a peer has downloaded the full file, it is reassembled and the peer is able to see, hear or otherwise utilize the file. (Id. at p. 7.)

C. The Acts of John Does 1-15

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants John Does 1-15 committed acts of copyright infringement when they used BitTorrent to participate in the same "swarm" to upload and download the Work. (Id. at p. 6.) Plaintiff reached this conclusion after retaining IPP, Ltd. ("IPP"), a company that specializes in the use of forensic software to scan peer-to-peer networks for the presence of infringing transactions. (Id. at p. 7.) Using this technology, IPP isolated the transactions alleged in the Complaint against the fifteen Defendants. (Id.) At this time, these Defendants are only known to Plaintiff by the unique internet protocol address that corresponds to the infringing transactions. (Id. at pp. 7-8.) Plaintiff does not know the actual identities of the John Doe 1-15 Defendants. (Id.)

D. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed suit against the Defendants on April 19, 2012. (Id. at p. 1.) The Complaint alleges that the Defendants willfully engaged in various acts of copyright infringement without the authorization of the Plaintiff. (Id. at pp. 8-11.) Consequently, Plaintiff contends that the Defendants are each jointly and severally liable for the actual damages that were proximately caused by each of the Defendants including lost sales, price erosion and a diminution of the value of its copyright. (Id. at pp. 9, 11.)

On April 25, 2012, we granted Plaintiff's Motion for leave to serve third party subpoenas prior to the Rule 26(f) conference. (Doc. No. 5.) Thereafter, Plaintiff served a subpoena on RCN to compel the disclosure of documents to identify the name, address, telephone number, and email address of each Defendant in order to name the Defendant in Plaintiff's copyright infringement action. (Def.'s Mot. at 2.) In response, Defendant filed Motions to sever them from the other Defendants and to quash the subpoena. These Motions are the focus of this Memorandum Opinion and will be addressed in turn.

II. MOTION TO SEVER

A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The joinder of defendants into a single action is governed by a two-part test. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2). First, any right to relief must be asserted against all the defendants jointly, severally, or in the alternative, must arise from the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences. Id.. Second, the defendants must share a common question of law or fact in the action. Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(B). These factors are mandatory and if either is absent, joinder is improper. Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2). Where misjoinder occurs, the court is empowered, by motion or sua sponte, to add or drop a party or sever any claim against a party. Fed. R. Civ. P. 21.

It is well settled that joinder "is strongly encouraged" and courts are advised "toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties." United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 282 U.S. 715, 724 (1966); see also Hagan v. Rogers, 570 F.3d 146, 152 (3d Cir. 2009). This sensible interpretation of Rule 20 by the United States Supreme Court in Gibbs serves to promote judicial economy, prevent a multiplicity of lawsuits and reduce inconvenience, delay and added expense. Gibbs, 282 U.S. at 724; Al Daraji v. Monica, No. 07-1749, 2007 WL 2994608, at *10 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 2007).

B. DISCUSSION

We find that at this early stage in the litigation the requirements of Rule 20 are satisfied and joinder is proper. First, the Plaintiff alleges joint and several liability against each of the fifteen John Doe Defendants. Second, the unique characteristics of BitTorrent entangle the Defendants within the same transaction, occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences. Finally, the Defendants share common questions of law and fact.

(1) Right to Relief

Defendant moves to sever from the other Defendants arguing that the facts fail to demonstrate that they are jointly, severally or alternatively liable, along with the fourteen other John Doe Defendants, for actions arising out of the same transaction, occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences. The first part of the test for proper joinder requires that any right to relief must be asserted against all the defendants jointly, severally, or in the alternative, must arise from the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences. Fed. R. ...


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