MALIBU MEDIA, LLC v. JOHN DOE SUBSCRIBER ASSIGNED IP ADDRESS 184.108.40.206
LETTER OPINION AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part pltf's 4 Motion for Discovery. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer on 3/2/2015. (nr, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Martin Luther King Federal Building
& U.S. Courthouse
50 Walnut Street
Newark, NJ 07101
Michael A. Hammer
United States Magistrate Judge
March 2, 2015
To: All counsel of record
LETTER OPINION AND ORDER
Malibu Media, LLC v. John Doe subscriber assigned IP address
Civil Action No. 14-7518 (FSH)(MAH)
This Letter Opinion and Order will address Plaintiff Malibu Media, LLC’s motion for leave
to serve a third-party subpoena to ascertain the identity of the subscriber assigned Internet Protocol
(“IP”) address 220.127.116.11 for the dates relevant to the Complaint. Plaintiff seeks to obtain this
information before the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f) scheduling conference in this matter.
D.E. 4. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, the Court did not hear oral argument. For
the reasons stated below, Plaintiff’s motion is granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff Malibu Media LLC is a California limited-liability corporation that claims
ownership of certain United States copyright registrations, and asserts that each registration covers
a different motion picture (collectively, the “Works”). Compl., at ¶ 3, D.E. 1 & Ex. B. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant illegally copied and distributed Plaintiff’s copyrighted works via the
BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol, in violation of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101
et seq. 1 Compl., at ¶¶ 2, 33.
Plaintiff asserts that it does not know Defendant’s identity; it knows only that the infringing
acts alleged in the Complaint were committed using IP address 18.104.22.168. Therefore, Plaintiff
seeks leave to issue a subpoena to the appropriate Internet Service Provider (“ISP”), in this case
Verizon FiOS, for the “true name and address” of the account holder of that IP address. Plaintiff’s
Br., at 5, D.E. 4-4; Plaintiff’s Proposed Order, at ¶¶ 1-2, D.E. 4-8. Plaintiff asserts the ISP, having
assigned that IP address, can compare the IP address with its records to ascertain Defendant’s
identity. See Pl. Br., at 4-5. Plaintiff contends this information is necessary because without it,
Plaintiff will have no means to determine the true identity of the Defendant, and therefore would
not be able to “serve the Defendant nor pursue this lawsuit to protect its valuable copyrights.” Id.
LEGAL STANDARD AND ANALYSIS
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d)(1) provides that “[a] party may not seek discovery
from any source before the parties have conferred as required by Rule 26(f).” The Court,
however, may grant leave to conduct discovery prior to that conference. See id. In ruling on a
motion for expedited discovery, the Court should consider “the entirety of the record to date and
the reasonableness of the request in light of all of the surrounding circumstances.”
Packages, Inc. v. Zheng, No. 05-4477, 2006 WL 1373055, at *2 (D.N.J. May 17, 2006) (quoting
Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. O’Connor, 194 F.R.D. 618, 624 (N.D. Ill. 2000)).
Courts faced with motions for leave to serve expedited discovery requests to ascertain the identity
of John Doe defendants in internet copyright infringement cases often apply the “good cause” test.
Plaintiff asserts that it retained a forensic investigator, IPP International UG, to identify the IP address
and document its alleged acts of infringement. See Declaration of Tobias Fieser, at ¶¶ 13-16, D.E. 4-7.
Plaintiff alleges that IPP International UG was able to use the BitTorrent protocol to download one or
more bits of those Works during connections with Defendant’s IP address. Complaint ¶¶ 18-24.
Plaintiff further alleges, “Defendant downloaded, copied, and distributed a complete copy of Plaintiff’s
movies without authorization . . . .” Id. ¶ 20.
See In re BitTorrent Adult Film Copyright Infringement Cases, No. 11-3995, 2012 WL 1570765
(E.D.N.Y. May 1, 2012) (granting limited early discovery regarding a John Doe defendant);
Pacific Century Int’l. Ltd. v. Does 1-101, No. 11-2533, 2011 WL 5117424, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Oct.
27, 2011) (finding plaintiff had not shown good cause to obtain expedited discovery). Good cause
exists where “the need for expedited discovery, in consideration of the administration of justice,
outweighs the prejudice to the responding party.” Am. Legalnet, Inc. v. Davis, 673 F. Supp. 2d
1063, 1066 (C.D. Cal. 2009); accord Semitool, Inc. v. Tokyo Electron Am., Inc., 208 F.R.D. 273,
275 (N.D. Cal. 2002).
Courts in this District have frequently applied the “good cause” standard to permit early
but limited discovery under analogous circumstances. In Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-11,
the plaintiff sought leave to serve a subpoena demanding that the ISP in question reveal the John
Doe defendants’ name, address, telephone number, email address, and Media Access Control
(“MAC”) address. No. 12-7615, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26217, at *3-4 (D.N.J. Feb. 26, 2013).
In that case, the Court granted the plaintiff’s request for early discovery, but permitted the plaintiff
to obtain only the information absolutely necessary to allow it to continue prosecuting its claims:
the defendant’s name and address. Id. at *3. The Court recognized that neither party should be
left without remedy. On the one hand, the plaintiffs claimed to be the owners of copyrighted
works that were entitled to protection. On the other hand, more expansive and intrusive discovery
could have imposed an undue burden on innocent individuals who might not have been the actual
infringers. Id. at *9-11 (citing Third Degree Films, Inc. v. John Does 1-110, Civ. No. 12-5817,
2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27273 (D.N.J. Jan. 17, 2013)). Therefore, the Court granted the plaintiffs
limited, early discovery, i.e., the names and addresses of the subscribers but not the email
addresses, phone numbers, or MAC addresses. Id. at *3. Other courts in this District have
reached the same conclusion and have imposed similar limitations. See, e.g., Malibu Media LLC
v. Doe, No. 14-3874 (WJM) (MF), Order (D.E. 7), at 4 (D.N.J. Sept. 2, 2014) (limiting subpoena
to be issued before Rule 26 conference to “the name and address of Defendant.”); Malibu Media,
LLC v. Doe, No. 13-4660 (JAP) (DEA), slip op. (D.E. 5) at 2 (D.N.J. Aug. 19, 2013) (limiting the
scope of a pre-Rule 26(f) conference subpoena to a subscriber’s name and address); Voltage
Pictures v. Doe, No. 12-6885 (RMB) (JS), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155356, at *9-10 (D.N.J. May
31, 2013) (granting leave to serve subpoena requesting only the name, address, and media access
control address associated with a particular IP address); Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-18,
No. 12-7643 (NLH) (AMD), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155911, at *9-10 (D.N.J. Mar. 22, 2013)
(restricting the scope of a pre-Rule 26(f) conference subpoena by not permitting discovery of the
internet subscriber’s telephone number or e-mail address).
There is good cause in this case to permit limited discovery prior to the Rule 26(f)
conference. The information is necessary to allow Plaintiff to identify the appropriate defendant,
and to effectuate service of the Amended Complaint. The Court certainly recognizes that the IP
account holder might not be personally responsible for the alleged infringement. However, the
IP account holder might possess information that assists in identifying the alleged infringer, and
thus that information is discoverable under the broad scope of Rule 26. See Malibu Media, LLC
v. Does, No. 12-07789 (KM) (MCA), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183958, at *24 (D.N.J. Dec. 18,
2013) (“The Court notes that it is possible that the Internet subscriber did not download the
It is also possible, however, that the subscriber either knows, or has
additional information which could lead to the identification of the alleged infringer.
Accordingly, the Court finds that the information sought by the subpoena is relevant.”); see also
Malibu Media LLC v. Doe, No. 14-3874 (WJM) (MF), Order (D.E. 7), at 3 (D.N.J. Sept. 2, 2014)
(quoting Malibu Media, LLC v. Does, No. 12-07789 (KM) (MCA), 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
183958, at *24 (D.N.J. Dec. 18, 2013)).
Accordingly, the Court determines that good cause exists to allow Plaintiff to discover the
name and address of the IP subscriber. That information serves the purposes outlined above,
while also taking into consideration the impact that disclosure might have on a subscriber who is
not personally responsible for the alleged infringement. Therefore, the Court grants Plaintiff’s
motion in part. Plaintiff may serve Verizon FiOS with a subpoena pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 45 that is limited to obtaining the name and address of the subscriber of IP address
22.214.171.124. Plaintiff may not seek the subscriber’s telephone number(s), email address(es), or
MAC addresses. Plaintiff shall attach a copy of this Letter Opinion and Order to the subpoena.
Plaintiff shall limit its use of the information to this litigation, and Plaintiff shall be prepared to
provide copies of the responsive information to any defendant who enters an appearance in this
case. 2 All other aspects of Plaintiff’s motion are denied.
/s Michael A. Hammer
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Before filing an Amended Complaint naming a specific individual as a defendant, Plaintiff shall ensure
that it has an adequate factual basis to do so. By permitting this discovery, the Court does not find or
suggest that Plaintiff may rely solely on the subscriber’s affiliation with the IP address in question as the
basis for its claims or its identification of the specific individual as the defendant.
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