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Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

December 12, 2013

MALIBU MEDIA, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
JOHN DOE, (IP Address 74.107.99.177) Defendant MALIBU MEDIA, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
JOHN DOE, (IP Address 96.244.115.116) Defendant

ORDER DENYING MOTIONS TO QUASH SUBPOENAS

James K. Bredar United States District Judge

Defendants in the above-captioned matters have filed similar motions requesting that the Court quash certain third party subpoenas (ECF No. 39 in Case No. JKB-13-512; ECF No. 8 in Case No. JKB-13-2708). In addition to the referenced motions, the Court has considered Plaintiff’s responses (ECF No. 42 in Case No. JKB-13-512; ECF No. 9 in Case No. JKB-13-2708). No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6. The motions will be DENIED.

The Defendants have standing to contest the subpoenas to the third party, but their ultimate arguments relate to proof of wrongdoing, or lack thereof. The Plaintiff is not required to prove its contentions at this stage. It has presented colorable claims that each of the Defendants have illegally downloaded Plaintiff’s copyright-protected product. Plaintiffs are entitled to move forward to the next stage in this litigation.

At the moment, the proof connecting these particular “John Does” with the particular illegal downloads consists only of the “John Does’” respective connections to the IP subscriber addresses. Whether Plaintiff will be able to amass additional evidence remains to be seen, and that could only happen in discovery.

Denying the motions to quash is not the same as permitting the Plaintiff to substitute in the public record actual names for the respective “John Does” going forward. Good cause exists to provide a measure of protection to the “John Does’” identities because of the potential for great harm to these Defendants’ reputations, family lives and careers that continues to exist. Because the evidence at this stage is equivocal, and because the Plaintiff can effectively conduct its litigation, at least in the current stage of the proceedings, without revealing publicly the true identities of the “John Does”, it is appropriate to take steps to continue to shield the Defendants. The Court intends to do so.

Counsel for the parties are directed to meet and confer. The parties are directed to jointly prepare a draft Protective Order for the Court’s consideration that will: 1) appropriately restrict Plaintiff from public identification of the “John Does” once the third party provides the identifying information requested in the subpoenas; and 2) require that the Complaint and other documents listing the true names of the Defendants (or otherwise revealing their identities) be filed under seal and with redacted copies of the same documents provided to the Clerk for the public domain which identify the Defendants only by their first and last initials.

Upon the foregoing, referenced Motions To Quash Subpoenas (ECF No. 39 in Case No. JKB-13-512; ECF No. 8 in Case No. JKB-13-2708) are DENIED. But, third party recipient of the subpoenas is INSTRUCTED NOT TO COMPLY with the subpoenas until one day after the Court has docketed the anticipated Protective Order now being drafted by the parties. Counsel for the Plaintiff will advise the third party recipient when that has occurred. Counsel are DIRECTED to submit their joint motion for a Protective Order (together with the draft of that Protective Order) on or before January 10, 2014.

As this litigation proceeds, Plaintiff is free to later request that the Court reconsider the protection described above, and the Court will do so if and when it is persuaded that the strength and merits of the Plaintiff’s cases are such that a defendant’s interests in anonymity are outweighed.


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