A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Discovery of Doe Defendant's Identity Allowed from ISP in Copyright Infringement Action

In a July 16, 2013 ruling, Judge Edgardo Ramos refused to dismiss copyright infringement claims against a John Doe defendant or to quash a subpoena seeking his identity from an ISP based on his Internet Protocol address.  The plaintiff, Malibu Media, LLC, started an action against 11 John Doe defendants alleging copyright infringement arising from their downloading of Malibu Media's movie, "Leila Last Night," using the BitTorrent protocol. Malibu Media claimed that its forensic expert was able to identify the IP address of eleven computers involved in the BitTorrent download of "Leila Last Night," and moved for expedited discovery and for "leave to file third-party subpoenas on the ISPs of these defendants in order to obtain identifying information."  Judge Ramos severed and dismissed the claims against Does 2 through 11, and granted the motion with regard to Doe 1.  That defendant then moved to dismiss the copyright infringement claim under Rule 12(b)(6), and to quash the subpoena on its ISP.  

On the motion to dismiss, the Court framed the issue as "'whether the Plaintiff can maintain a plausible copyright infringement claim against a defendant solely on the basis that the defendant owned an IP address that was used to download a protected . . . film through BitTorrent technology.'"  In finding the complaint to be adequately pled (in accordance with the holding in many other cases), Judge Ramos rejected the defendant's contention "that subscriber identity does not always correspond with infringer identity as a ground for granting the motion, writing instead that while "it is reasonably possible that Defendant did not commit the alleged infringement, it is also reasonably possible that Defendant did infringe Plaintiff's copyright based on the allegations set forth in the Complaint, which must be accepted as true . . ."

In response to the defendant's contention that he has a First Amendment right to remain anonymous on the Internet, Judge Ramos analyzed whether to quash the subpoena to protect the user's anonymity using the five factors commonly cited by Court's in the District.  See here. The Court found that all the factors weigh in favor of the plaintiff, and denied the motion to quash.
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