Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DC Circuit rules no multiple John Doe cases without basis for personal jurisdiction and joinder

In the first appellate decision of its kind, the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals has dealt a death knell to the type of mass John Doe fishing expedition cases pioneered by the RIAA and carried on by pornographic filmmakers and other high volume plaintiffs seeking the identity of possible defendants.

In AF Holdings v. Does 1-1058, the appeals court overruled the district court's grant of ex parte discovery, ruling that mass John Doe cases could not be brought where there was no known basis for the assertion of personal jurisdiction over the unknown defendants, and on alternative grounds that there could be no joinder merely because defendants allegedly downloaded the same file through BitTorrent and therefore possibly in the same "swarm".

(Ed. note: A cynic might argue that the key difference in this case was that, for a change, the ISP's, and not merely defendants, were challenging the subpoenas; but of course we all know that justice is 'blind'. An ingrate might bemoan the Court's failure to address the key underlying fallacy in the "John Doe" cases, that because someone pays the bill for an internet account that automatically makes them a copyright infringer; but who's complaining over that slight omission? A malcontent like myself might be a little unhappy that it took the courts ten (10) years to finally come to grips with the personal jurisdiction issue, which would have been obvious to 9 out of 10 second year law students from the get go, and I personally have been pointing it out and writing about it since 2005; but at least they finally did get there. And a philosopher might wonder how much suffering might have been spared had the courts followed the law back in 2004 when the John Doe madness started; but of course I'm a lawyer, not a philosopher. :) Bottom line, though: this is a good thing, a very good thing. Ten (10) years late in coming, but good nonetheless. - R.B. )

May 27, 2014, Opinion, US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit

Friday, May 09, 2014

Class action claim against Harlequin Books for e-book royalties upheld by 2nd Circuit

In Keiler v. Harlequin Enterprises, a class action royalty claim on behalf of authors whose works were being distributed as e-books by Harlequin was sustained, and the lower court's dismissal of the complaint reversed.

The complaint alleged that Harlan, in a scheme to deprive the authors of their contractual royalties for e-books, had established a subsidiary, was paying royalties to the subsidiary at a below-market rate, and was paying the authors based on the low receipts of the subsidiary rather than on the actual receipts of Harlan itself.

May 1, 2014, US Court of Appeals for 2nd Circuit