The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry S. Perkin, M.J.
Presently before the Court are Defendant John Doe # 4's Motion to Quash Plaintiff's Subpoena, Defendant John Doe #9's Motion to Quash Subpoena Served on Comcast and/or Issue a Protective Order and Defendant John Doe # 15's pro se Motion to Quash Subpoena. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC alleges copyright infringement of its adult film entitled "Young and Hot" by various John Doe Defendants, including John Doe Defendants # 4, #9, and #15. Plaintiff specifically alleges infringement through use of a peer-to-peer client sharing program, known as BitTorrent, without payment of royalties to the Plaintiff. Third-party subpoenas have been issued to the Defendants' internet service providers ("ISPs"). Through these subpoenas, Plaintiff seeks the identities of John Doe Defendants #4, #9 and #15. At this stage in the litigation process, Plaintiff has merely obtained an "IP" address identifying each of the subject John Doe Defendants. The subpoenas served on the ISPs require the ISPs to provide Plaintiff with the names and addresses-as well as other identifying information-of the John Doe Defendants so that Plaintiff may serve each John Doe Defendant with process. Given the sensitive and potentially embarrassing consequences of revealing their true identities, John Doe Defendants #4, #9 and #15 seek an Order quashing the subpoenas.
Plaintiff has filed nearly identical lawsuits against numerous other John Doe Defendants in this Circuit and across the country. All three moving John Doe Defendants have filed Motions to Quash the Subpoenas and two have requested a protective order regarding the disclosure of their actual identities to Plaintiff through the subpoena process.*fn1 This Court agrees with and will utilize the approach adopted within the Third Circuit in resolving similar motions.*fn2
The John Doe Defendants move to quash the subpoenas served upon their ISPs pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(c)(3)(A) because (1) the subpoenas seek disclosure of protected information, (2) the subpoenas subject them to damage of reputation and embarrassment and (3) the information sought is not relevant. Specifically, John Doe # 4 argues irreparable harm and damage to reputation and John Doe #9 argues undue burden. John Doe #15, acting pro se, does not set forth an argument in support of his motion to quash. Based on the arguments of John Doe #4 and John Doe #9 claiming damage to reputation and embarrassment, this Court interprets these arguments as motions for a protective order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c).
Whether a person has standing to challenge a third-party subpoena issued to a non-party depends on the type of challenge set forth. A party has standing to challenge a third-party subpoena on grounds of privilege or protected matter, but not on grounds of undue burden.*fn3 It
appears that Plaintiff does not object to Defendants' Motions on grounds of standing.*fn4 This Court will examine Defendants' substantive arguments arising under the theory of undue burden.*fn5
On timely motion, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45(c)(3)(A) allows a court to quash a subpoena if it requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter or subjects a person to undue burden.
1. Whether the Subpoenas Require Disclosure of Privileged or Other Protected Matter.
Defendants each seek a Motion to Quash but have not set forth specific reasoning for such a motion.*fn6 In reading their arguments on related issues, I interpret the Defendants' arguments as follows: John Doe #4 contends that disclosure of his identity would cause "irreparable harm by way of damage to my reputation, embarrassment and otherwise"*fn7 ; John Doe # 9 contends that "IP locators are not 100% accurate"*fn8 ; and John Doe # 15 contends that he "stands ...