Zambezia Film Pty, Ltd v. Does, No. 13 C 1323 & 1741, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Mar. 20, 2013) (Shadur, Sen. J.).
Judge Shadur sua sponte ordered plaintiff Zambezia Film to identify those Doe defendants that could be properly joined pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2) in this BitTorrent “swarm” copyright case. The Court would dismiss the remaining defendants. Relying upon a Michigan Law Review student note — The Case Against Combating BitTorrent Piracy Through Mass John Doe Copyright Infringement Lawsuits, 111 Mich. L. Rev. 283 (2012) — the Court required that Zambezia Film identify those Does that were both part of the same swarm and part of the same swarm at the same time as one another. Any other defendants would be dismissed.
Sunlust Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-75, No. 12 C 1546, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 27, 2012) (Tharp, J.).
Judge Tharp denied Doe defendant’s motion to quash a subpoena seeking his identifying information from his cable provider in this BitTorrent copyright case, but allowed the Doe to proceed in the suit using a pseudonym. The Court also denied Doe’s motion to sever the Doe defendants. As an initial matter, while a party to a suit usually has no standing to move to quash a third party subpoena, there is an exception in cases such as this one where the subpoena implicates that party’s privacy. But Doe’s motion to quash was based upon an argument that the 75 Does were not properly joined. That, however, is not a valid ground for quashing a subpoena.
Plaintiff Sunlust’s joinder was not inappropriate in this case, despite district courts’ increasing concern regarding improper joinder of multiple Does in pornographic downloading cases around the country. Sunlust alleged that each Doe participated simultaneously in a single BitTorrent “swarm” and that the Does were sharing portions of the file between themselves as a part of that process. A swarm is the collective act of downloading a particular file. And joinder was further supported by Sunlust’s civil conspiracy claim alleging that the Does, as part of a single swarm, were engaged in a conspiracy to unlawfully distribute the copyrighted movie. Furthermore, the Does faced common legal and factual questions regarding Sunlust’s copyright claims.
In order to avoid abusive litigation tactics, the Court ordered that Sunlust only contact Doe through counsel and that Doe could proceed using a pseudonym, at least during discovery.
Pacific Century Int’l. v. Does 1-31, No. 11 C 9064, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jun. 12, 2012) (Leinenweber, J.).
Judge Leinenweber granted plaintiff Pacific Century International’s (“PCI”) Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(2)(B) motion to compel subpoena compliance, in this BitTorrent copyright suit. The subpoena sought identifying information from Comcast for certain of its internet service customers. PCI had each Doe defendant’s IP address – a number assigned to a computer using the internet – but not the names, addresses or other identifying information associated with that computer or internet service account. Recognizing that courts in the Northern District and elsewhere were split on the issue, the Court held that joinder was proper based upon the allegation that the Does were involved in the same BitTorrent “swarm” used to download the alleged infringing video. The Court also noted that all of the Does sued in this case appeared to be Illinois residents based upon their IP addresses, unlike the Does in many other cases.
The Court also noted the concern that PCI and similarly-situated plaintiffs were using the threat of being named in these suits to unfairly coerce settlements. But getting the identifying information was necessary to move the case forward. The Court, therefore, ordered Comcast to notify its customers of the pending disclosure pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 551(c)(2) and then gave each such defendant thirty days from notice to object or otherwise move the Court for relief. Comcast was to turn over the identifying information only after any such objections were resolved.