Thursday, February 14, 2008

California Judge dismisses RIAA case for misjoinder of defendants AND misjoinder of plaintiff record companies in SONY v. Does 1-5

As regular readers of this blog know, Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk of the District of Maine has recently excoriated the RIAA for improper joinder of defendants in the "John Doe" cases, suggesting Rule 11 sanctions.

We have learned of a California case, SONY v. Does 1-5, where the District Judge -- Hon. S. James Otero of the Central District of California -- not only dismissed as to Does 1-5, based upon the long line of cases which have held that the RIAA has no right to join the John Doe defendants in a single case since the claims are not based on the same "transaction. occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences", but went on to rule that the plaintiff record companies were also improperly joined.

On the issue of misjoinder of defendants, the RIAA made a reconsideration motion, which was denied.

On the issue of misjoinder of plaintiffs, Judge Otero ordered the RIAA to show cause why the case should not be dismissed as to the additional record companies; the RIAA agreed, and the case was dismissed as to those 6 plaintiffs.

As to Doe #1, the Court granted the plaintiff expedited discovery, but ordered that the defendant would have 21 days from getting notice of the subpoena to make a motion to quash.

In rejecting the RIAA's reconsideration motion, on the issue of misjoinder of John Does 2-5, Judge Otero rejected the RIAA's argument that a decision on joinder is premature, holding:

Although Plaintiffs contend that the Defendant Does may question the propriety of joinder after they are identified, it is this Court's experience that an overwhelming majority of cases brought by recording companies against individuals are resolved without so much as an appearance by the defendant, usually through default judgment or stipulated dismissal. This Court has already expressed its concern that in the thousands of peer-to-peer lawsuits filed by the record companies "potentially meritorious legal and factual defenses are not being litigated, and instead, the federal judiciary is being used as a hammer by [the record companies] to pound settlements out of unrepresented defendants." Elektra Entm't Group, Inc. v. [O']Brien, No. CV 06-5289, at 2 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 2, 2007). The Defendant Does cannot question the propriety of joinder if they do not set foot in the courthouse. (emphasis supplied)
[Ed. Note. In a sad postscript, as if on cue, the defendant -- no doubt unaware of how well she was doing in the case thanks to Judge Otero's decency and vision -- almost immediately contacted the RIAA's "Settlement Support Center".]

Order dismissing as to Does 2-5 for improper joinder* (2007 ILRWeb (P&F) 2531)
Order denying RIAA motion for reconsideration of order dismissing as to Does 2-5 for improper joinder* (2007 ILRWeb (P&F) 2533)
Order dismissing as to plaintiffs Atlantic, Capitol, Elektra, Arista, Priority, and Maverick, for improper joinder of plaintiffs* (2007 ILRWeb (P&F) 2535)

* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation

Commentary & discussion:
Ars Technica

Keywords: digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property


Anonymous said...

Is this the day the tide turned?

Anonymous said...

Are the other judges in these cases listening?


Reluctant Raconteur said...

Her settlement does not negate the ruling. So her subsequent actions should have no bearing on the effect of this ruling. She may have been wise to settle if she actually did not have the facts on her side.

Only time will tell if this becomes a common understanding amongst courts. We can hope.

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate to realize that these decisions are nearly 6 months old, and yet current Doe Defendants seeking to quash cases based on misjoinder of both Defendants *and* Plaintiffs have not had this authority to use in their current fights. The RIAA continues to insist that hundreds of other courts agree with their methods, while omitting reference to all those that haven't. And this is a list the RIAA knows best of all, having been the only party present in most of them.

It is also unfortunate that the judge in the case accepted the RIAA arguments otherwise apparently in full, allowing expedited discovery, with only minimal protections, to proceed despite the patiently phony and wrong misrepresentations made by the RIAA at this time. Especially the continuous and ongoing with no shred of proof, as well as the actually distributed argument when only MS ever is shown to have downloaded any files, parts.

What I wonder here is where the judge states: Plaintiffs must use the information obtained through the subpoena solely for the purpose of protecting Plaintiffs' rights under the Copyright Act, does that include extortion through the Settlement Support Center, which is entirely extra-judicial in its nature? Or is it possible that the judge meant for the remaining Plaintiffs to only be able to use this information in a far more limited manner?


Anonymous said...

In a sad postscript, as if on cue, the defendant -- no doubt unaware of how well she was doing in the case thanks to Judge Otero's decency and vision -- almost immediately contacted the RIAA's "Settlement Support Center"

Yes, but what of the severed Does? Has the RIAA since pursued them individually?