In Arista v. Does 1-27, the Portland, Maine, case targeting students at the University of Maine, the Magistrate Judge to whom defendants' dismissal motion was referred has recommended that the complaint be sustained, rather than dismissed.
In footnote 5, however, she recommended that the Court consider imposing Rule 11 sanctions based upon the RIAA's lawyers' "gamesmanship" in pretending to have grounds for joinder, when in fact there are none:
I share the Doe Defendants’ concern over the absence of individualized allegations, but for a different reason. My concern has to do with the rules of joinder, see Rule 20(a), and whether it is appropriate for the Plaintiffs to join claims against disparate defendants concerning disparate (albeit similar) conduct, even if only for the purpose of gaining the authority to serve subpoenas to obtain the defendants’ names and contact information. I assume they have done so in order to limit their filing fees and make their discovery work more manageable, but I am not convinced that it is proper. See, e.g., DirecTV, Inc. v. Adrian, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8922, 2004 WL 1146122 (N.D. Ill. May 17, 2004) (involving claims that defendants separately pirated satellite TV services, without any allegation of concerted action, concluding that joinder was improper, and severing all but the first named defendant from the action). In particular, paragraph 20 of the complaint alleges that the claims against all defendants arise from the “same series of transactions or occurrences” because the Doe Defendants have the same ISP (the University of Maine) and all engaged in file-sharing over the Internet using that ISP. The complaint wants, however, any allegation of concerted conduct. The allegation that all of the claims arise from the same series of transactions or occurrences because all of the defendants used the same ISP sounds good, but makes little sense when one appreciates that having a common ISP says nothing about whether the use of that service by two or more people amounts to the same transaction or occurrence. Rule 11(b)(3) requires that a representation in a pleading have evidentiary support and one wonders if the Plaintiffs are intentionally flouting that requirement in order to make their discovery efforts more convenient or to avoid paying the proper filing fees. In my view, the Court would be well within its power to direct the Plaintiffs to show cause why they have not violated Rule 11(b) with their allegations respecting joinder. Separately, the Court may sever defendants sua sponte, pursuant to Rule 21, although dismissal of the action is not authorized. I appreciate that increased costs may redound to the defendants’ detriment eventually, but it is difficult to ignore the kind of gamesmanship that is going on here with respect to joinder.January 25, 2008, Recommendation of Magistrate Judge sustaining complaint and recommending order to show cause for Rule 11 violation*
Suppose, instead of university students, the record companies chose to target all individuals within the District of Maine who had used these P2P services and had TimeWarner Cable for their ISP. Would all those individuals be properly joined in a single complaint? I think the Plaintiffs know the answer to that question because on May 5, 2007, many of these same plaintiffs filed a very similar lawsuit, Atlantic Recording Corp., et al. v. Does 1-22, 1:07-cv-057-JAW. A procedure similar to the one used in this case was adopted in that case, but no motions to dismiss or motions to quash were filed and presumably the plaintiffs obtained the discovery they sought. The case was voluntarily dismissed on July 16, 2007. Following that dismissal the same counsel filed at least three separate cases in this court: Atlantic Recording Corporation, et al. v. Anna Lenentine, 1:07-cv-133-JAW, on September 4, 2007 (still pending); Capitol Records Inc. v. Cara Laude, 2:07-cv-154-GZS, on September 4, 2007 (settled and dismissed on January 22, 2008); and Atlantic Recording Corp. v. Christopher Leavitt, 2:07-cv-156-DBH, on September 4, 2007 (voluntarily dismissed with prejudice on October 16, 2007). The relevant allegations in the respective complaints simply state that the defendants were "identified as the individual[s] responsible for that IP address at that date and hour" without reference to how the identification was made. However, there is certainly a "plausible inference" that the identifications were made as a result of the May lawsuit. It is curious that no attempt was made to join these cases as arising from the same transaction or occurrence if my plausible inference is accurate. I think no such attempt was made because it is apparent that the cases would not be properly joined. These plaintiffs have devised a clever scheme to obtain court-authorized discovery prior to the service of complaints, but it troubles me that they do so with impunity and at the expense of the requirements of Rule 11(b)(3) because they have no good faith evidentiary basis to believe the cases should be joined. (emphasis supplied)
* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation
Commentary & discussion:
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