Motion to Keep Secret the Identities of Alleged Copyright Infringers Denied: State University of New York at Albany Forced to Reveal Students’ Identities
By Tyler Lacey – Edited by Jay Gill
Arista Records LLC v. Does 1-16
N.D.N.Y., February 18, 2009, No. 1:08-CV-765
On February 18, 2009, United States Magistrate Judge Randolph F. Treece of the Northern District of New York denied a motion to quash a subpoena that would force the State University of New York at Albany (SUNYA) to reveal the identities of 16 students (“Doe Defendants”) alleged to have illegally shared music files.
The defendants raised four claims: “(1) the Subpoena is an infringement of their First Amendment Rights, (2) the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them, (3) the Complaint fails to state a cause of action; and, (4) the joinder of all Doe Defendants into this single action is improper.” The court ruled against the students on all four of these arguments. The court dismissed the students’ First Amendment claim to the right to privacy by declaring that the “modest First Amendment right to remain anonymous when there is an allegation of copyright infringement” must be balanced against a “copyright owner’s right to disclosure of the identity of a possible trespasser of its intellectual property interest,” and found that in this case the balance weighed on the side of disclosure. The court found the students’ personal jurisdiction and joinder challenges unpersuasive, as their merits cannot be properly determined while identities of the defendants had not yet been disclosed. It similarly denied the claim that the complaint failed to state a cause of action, holding that this claim is essentially a 12(b)(6) motion. Such a motion, the court reasoned, is procedurally improper at this point, as no complaint has been officially served on the Doe Defendants.