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Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-15

August 10, 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 # 12's ("Defendant"), "Motion to Dismiss and, in the alternative, to Issue a Protective Order and Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously", and the Response in Opposition filed by Plaintiff, Malibu Media ("Plaintiff"). For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are denied.

I. FACTS*fn1

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 John Doe Defendants, who are identified solely by individual internet protocol ("IP") addresses, willfully reproduced, redistributed, performed and displayed the Work in violation of various copyright laws.*fn2 (Id. at pp. 8-11.) One of these Defendants, John Doe # 12 ("Defendant"), is identified solely by an IP address*fn3 located in Reading, Pennsylvania. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at p. 2.) Verizon Internet Services is a technology company that provides internet service to the Defendant. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed suit against the fifteen John Doe 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.) Defendant, proceeding pro se, filed a Motion to Dismiss, a Motion for a Protective Order and a Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously.*fn4 (See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss.) These Motions form the subject matter of this Memorandum Opinion.

II. MOTION TO DISMISS

As a preliminary matter, Defendant contends that the fifteen John Doe Defendants are improperly joined and that dismissal is the proper remedy.*fn5 However, the misjoinder of parties is not grounds for dismissing an action. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 21. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 21, a court may, at any time by motion or on its own, add or drop a party. Id. Noting this rule, we interpret the pro se Defendant's Motion to seek severance from the other fourteen John Doe Defendants.

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

In a previous Memorandum Opinion, we found the joinder of the fifteen Defendants to be proper. See Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-15, No. 12-2077, 2012 WL 3089383, at *4 (E.D. Pa. July 30, 2012). Once again noting the early stage of the litigation, we find that the requirements of Rule 20 are satisfied for a number of reasons.*fn6 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.*fn7

Thus, we find that the requirements of Rule 20 are satisfied. We reach this conclusion conscious of the early juncture in the litigation at which we find ourselves. Also, we note that the ...


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