The Northern District of Illinois Denies Motion to Compel for Subpoenas Seeking Non-Party IP Address Information
By Dorothy Du – Edited by Julie Dorais
Pacific Century International, Ltd. v. John Does 1-37, No. 12 C 1057 (N.D. Ill. March 30, 2012)
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted in part and denied in part plaintiffs’ motion to compel ISPs’ compliance with subpoenas for identifying information associated with IP addresses in a copyright infringement action against BitTorrent users.
In an opinion by Chief Judge Holderman, the court granted plaintiffs’ motion to compel ISPs to comply with subpoenas for information about Doe defendants’ IP addresses, but denied the motion in cases in which the information sought related to non-party IP addresses. The court held that subpoenas for information pertaining to non-party IP addresses are not “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1), and that as such, the subpoenas would impose an “undue burden” on ISPs under Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A)(iv). Pacific Century International, Ltd. v. John Does 1-37, No. 12 C 1057, slip op. at 5, 8, 9 (N.D. Ill. March 30, 2012). Moreover, the court rejected plaintiffs’ attempt to justify the subpoenas on claims of conspiracy among the Doe defendants because the plaintiffs failed to plead the existence of an agreement among the defendants. According to the court, plaintiff copyright owners were not seeking information for the purpose of litigating the copyright action at hand but rather were attempting to use discovery improperly in order to identify BitTorrent users for future copyright infringement suits or threats of suits.
Techeye praises the decision for setting back copyright trolling campaigns by Big Content. ArsTechnica explains that the decision signals judicial resistance to copyright holders’ use of conspiracy theory to gather information about ISP subscribers in order to “extort settlements.” Last week, ArsTechnica reported on two other rulings in similar cases in Florida that suggest that plaintiffs in copyright actions are likely to lose whenever ISPs raise objections to subpoenas that are “fishing expeditions” against their customers. (more…)