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The Case Against Combating BitTorrent Piracy Through Mass John Doe Copyright

Infringement Lawsuits
Author(s): Sean B. Karunaratne
Source: Michigan Law Review, Vol. 111, No. 2 (November 2012), pp. 283-309
Published by: Michigan Law Review Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41703442
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NOTE
The
Piracy

Case

Against

Through

Combating
Mass

John

Infringement

BitTorrent
Doe

Copyright

Lawsuits

Sean B. Karunaratne*
themostpopularpeer-to-peer
medium
is theBitTorrent
Today,
file-sharing
. WhileBitTorrent
, manyofitsusersunlawfully
protocol
itselfis notillegal
distribute
works.Somecopyright
holdersenforce
theirrights
copyrighted
BitTorrent
usersin a singlemass lawsuit.
bysuingnumerous
infringing
Becausethecopyright
holderinitially
knowstheputative
defendants
only
IP
their
addresses
it
the
inthecom,
by
identifies defendants
anonymously
holderthenseeksa federalcourt's
plaintas JohnDoes. The copyright
to engagein earlydiscovery
permission
for thepurposeof learningthe
identities
behindtheIP addresses.Oncetheplaintiff
knowstheidentities
of
theJohnDoes, itcontacts
themwitha settlement
demand.
Butoften
before
suchdiscovery
is granted
havebeenimproper, theanonymous
defendants
lyjoined, and thelawsuithas beenfiledin a courtthatlackspersonal
overthedefendants.
Thispresents
no problemto theplaintiff
jurisdiction
becausetheplaintiff
doesnotintend
forthelawsuittogo totrial.However,
thedefendants
haveno choicebutto succumbto theplaintiff's
effectively
settlement
demandbecausesettling
willbe lesscostlythanfighting
theaction.ThisNotearguesthatcourtsshouldnotgrantexpedited
in
discovery
suchprocedurally
lawsuits.To reinin thesemasslawsuits
, this
deficient
Notearguesthatmass copyright
suitsshouldmeetcertain
infringement
minimum
joinderand personaljurisdiction
requirements
beforecourts
grantexpedited
discovery.
Table of Contents
Introduction
I. From Napster to BitTorrent: The Evolution
of Online Infringement
A. Misjoinder and theRIAA Campaign Against
File Sharing
B. BitTorrentFile Sharing
II. Reining in Mass Lawsuits with Minimum
Procedural Requirements
A. Movingfor ExpeditedDiscovery

284
286
286
288
291
29 1

* J.D.Candidate,
ofMichigan
LawSchool.I wouldliketo
May2013,University
thank
Professor
Nicholas
forhisinvaluable
adviceandfeedback
onthisNote.I would
Bagley
alsoliketothank
Rebecca
Allison
andMargaret
Mettler
for
Klein,
Nichols,
myNotesEditors
their
terrific
editorial
advice.
I wouldliketothank
Without
their
loveand
Finally,
myparents.
I couldnever
beintheposition
towrite
thisNote.
support,
283

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284

MichiganLaw Review

[Vol.111:283

B. Proper Joinder:The Contemporaneous


Swarm Requirement
: Resident-of-the-Forum-State
C. Personal Jurisdiction
Requirement
III. Why The John Does Need Protection
Conclusion

292
298
302
309

Introduction
file
This year,thousandsof alleged users1of theBitTorrent
peer-to-peer
-sharingprotocolwill open theirmailboxes to an unwelcomesurprise:a
to sue the user forcopyrightinletterfroma copyrightholderthreatening
amount.2The recipientwill
unlesshe pays a specifiedsettlement
fringement
receivetheletterbecause he is one of the severalanonymousJohnDoe delawsuit that
fendantsjoined in a single mass copyrightinfringement
identifiesthe defendantsonlyby the IP addressesassociated withtheirinternetaccounts.3In theircontinuingassault againstonlinepiracy,copyright
holdersare using thismass litigationtacticto prosecutealleged infringers.
users have been targetedin this
Since mid-2010,over 220,000 BitTorrent
manner.4
holderissues a
is simple.The plaintiff-copyright
The litigationstrategy
used
BitTorrent
to inlisted
John
Does
have
that
all
the
complaintalleging
on
moves
for
Then
the
its
expediteddiscovery the
plaintiff
fringe copyright.5
basis of thatcomplaint.Expediteddiscoveryallows the plaintiffto serve

users.
There
intheselawsuits
areactualBitTorrent
1. Notall individuals
implicated
wasassociated
inwhich
whoseaccount
theperson
ofcasesofmistaken
area number
identity
work.
whoallegedly
wasnottheperson
withtheIP address
infringed
uponthecopyrighted
John
Doe wasinalllikeliinwhich
identified
a subsequently
Foranexample
ofa situation
see James
thecopyrighted
hoodnottheonewhodownloaded
work,
Wrongfully
Temple,
Porn
Downloaded
Lawsuit
15,2011,at
, S.F.Chron.,July
Illegally
SaysGrandma
Targeted?
D1 (settlement
letter
senttoa seventy-year-old
grandmother).
NewChallenge
2. CindyCohn,MassCopyright
,
fortheFederalCourts
Litigation:
ElectronicFrontierFound.(Apr.19,2011),https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/04/massfrom
JohnL. Steele,Attorney,
see also Letter
copyright-litigation-new-challenge-federal;
SteeleLetter],
Doe Defendant
SteeleHansmeier,
PLLC,toJohn
(May16,2011)[hereinafter
availableat http://msnbcmedia.msn.eom/i/MSNBC/Sections/NEWS/z_Personal/AJoh
sentto a JohnDoe
of a letter
110719_Steele_Hansmeier_Settlement_Letter.pdf
(example
defendant).
inSupport
ofThird
Frontier
Foundation
Electronic
ofAmicus
Curiae
3. Memorandum
World
Media
at 1,Third
toQuashorModify
Cable'sMotion
TimeWarner
Subpoena
Party
MemoranNo.3:10-cv-0090,
LLC v.Does1-1243,
(N.D.W.Va.Nov.23,2010)[hereinafter
dumof AmicusCuriae],availableat https://www.eff.org/files/filenode/wvcopyrighttroll
thirdworldmediavdoesamicus.PDF.
U.S.
AreYouatRisk?,
Lawsuits:
FileMassPiracy
PornCompanies
4. Jason
Koebler,
at http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/
News& WorldReport(Feb.2, 2012),available
2012/02/02/porn-companies-file-mass-piracy-lawsuits-are-you-at-risk.
until
areidentified
defendants
become
John
Doesdonotofficially
5. Technically,
they
to
when
"defendants"
usetheterm
tothecase.ThisNotewillsometimes
andnamed
referring
defendants."
for"putative
Doesas shorthand
John

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November
2012]

BitTorrent
Piracy
Combating

285

subpoenason each Doe's InternetService Provider("ISP") in orderto uncover the identitybehind each Doe's InternetProtocol ("IP")6 address.
Obtainingthe Does' identitiesis the copyrightholders' ultimategoal because theyneverintendto litigatethesemass lawsuits.7Instead,settlement
is theirendgame.
Afterobtainingthe identitiesof the previouslyanonymousJohnDoes,
the copyrightholder sends settlementlettersto the defendantsnotifying
themthattheywill be named in the suit if theydo not pay a specified
amount.The settlementofferis carefullydesignedto leave the defendant
withno choice but to settle,even when he has a strongdefenseto the acworkin
tion.8The pressureto settleis especiallyacutewhenthecopyrighted
is
is
a
as
often
the
case.9
video,
pornographic
question
The JohnDoes' inabilityto defendthemselvesis particularly
troubling
because manydo have strongdefenses,giventhe majorproceduraldefects
In particular,
thesemass lawsuitssufthattypicallyplague theselawsuits.10
and
the
forum
court's
lack
of personaljurisdiction
ferfromimproper
joinder
When those issues are raised,
over many(if not most) of the defendants.11
districtcourtsspliton whetherto allow discoveryof theanonymousdefendants' identities.12
This Note arguesthat,because thesemass JohnDoe copyright
infringementlawsuitsfrequently
sufferfrommajorproceduraldeficiencies,federal
districtcourtjudges shouldnot grantexpediteddiscoverywithoutcarefully
whetherthe JohnDoe defendantshave been properlyjoined
investigating
and withoutfirstensuringthatthecourthas personaljurisdictionoverthem.
Part I traces the historyof mass copyrightinfringement
actions against
onlinefilesharersand explainshow the unique natureof BitTorrent
differentiates it from the peer-to-peernetworksinvolved in previous mass
lawsuits.PartII advocatesforthe impositionof minimumjoinder and perthatcourtsshouldenforcepriorto granting
sonal jurisdictionrequirements
take
expediteddiscovery.PartIII contendsthatmass lawsuitsimpermissibly
proceduralshortcutsas partof a low-cost,high-volumelitigationstrategy
designed to obtain the defendants'identitiesand coerce settlementsand

6. TheIP address
is a numerical
anindividual
ina netkeythatidentifies
computer
work.
ChadPerrin,
Is theIP Address
theNewSSN?,TechRepublic
(May23,2011,12:00
PM),http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/security/is-the-ip-address-the-new-ssn/5486
7. SeeMemorandum
ofAmicus
Curiae,
supranote3,at1.
8. Seeinfra
PartIII.
9. Seeinfra
PartIII.
10. SeeMemorandum
ofAmicus
Curiae,
supranote3,at1.
11. Embedded
within
thepersonal
issueis thequestion
ofproper
venue.
jurisdiction
ThisNotediscusses
Theselawsuits
alsoraisea First
Amendment
onlypersonal
jurisdiction.
inthisNote.
that
issueisnotdiscussed
issue,although
12. Compare
Movie,LLC v. Does 1-171,810 F. Supp.2d 20 (D.D.C.
Donkeyball
motion
toquashsubpoena
anddismiss
with
Inc.v.Does
2011)(denying
action),
BoyRacer,
themotion
1-60,No.C 11-01738
SI,2011WL3652521
(N.D.Cal.Aug.19,2011)(granting
toquashanddismissing
thecasewithout
prejudice).

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MichiganLaw Review

[Vol.111:283

thus,the minimumproceduralrequirements
proposedin PartII could help
protectdefendants
by reiningin thesemass lawsuits.
I. FromNapster to BitTorrent: The Evolution of
Online Infringement
file sharingbegan withthe
Copyrightholders' war againstpeer-to-peer
riseof computerprogramslike Napster,whichallowed individualsto download music online for free. Beginningin 2003, the RecordingIndustry
Association of America ("RIAA") launched a large-scalelitigationcampaign againstindividualswho allegedlyinfringedmusic labels' copyrights
using peer-to-peerfile-sharing
programsfromtheirpersonal computers.13
The end of the RIAA campaignin 200814broughtabout a relativelull in
lawsuitsagainstonline file sharers.15
However,the void leftby the RIAA
has recentlybeen filledby an explosion of mass copyrightinfringement
lawsuitsagainstBitTorrent
filesharers.This Partgives a shorthistoryof the
RIAA campaignand discussesthenew issues raisedby theBitTorrent
lawsuits.SectionI.A discusseshow severalcourtsrebuffed
theRIAA's attempts
tojoin manyanonymousdefendants
in a singlelawsuit.SectionI.B explains
how the mechanicsof the BitTorrentfile-sharing
it
protocoldifferentiate
fromotherfile-sharing
in BitTorrent
services,and how thisallows plaintiffs
lawsuitsto makejoinderarguments
thattheRIAA could not.
A. Misjoinderand theRIAA CampaignAgainstFile Sharing
Afterfocusingits efforts
on shutting
downpeer-to-peer
serfile-sharing
vices such as Napsterand Kazaa, in 2003 theRIAA began to directits legal
efforts
towardprosecutingtheindividualssharingthefiles.16
These lawsuits
markedthe firsttime "copyrightlaws [had] been used on a mass scale
users."17First,theRIAA would obtaintheIP adagainstindividualInternet
dressesof alleged infringers
by usingthepeer-to-peer
programto searchfor
a particularcopyrighted
recordingand thencollecttheIP addressesof anyone uploadingthatrecording.18
The RIAA turnedto thistacticaftertheD.C.
CircuitCourt of Appeals rebuffedits initial strategyof using the special

13. See Christopher


M. Swartout,
Toward
a Regulatory
ModelofInternet
Comment,
andCopyright
, 31Nw.J.Int'l L. & Bus.
Intermediary
Liability:
File-Sharing
Enforcement
499,505(2011).
14. Id.
15. DavidKravets,
Lawsuits
Plummet
inAftermath
,
Copyright
ofRIAACampaign
WIRED(May18,2010,1:24PM),http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/05/riaa-bump/.
16. John
RIAASues261FileSwappers
Borland,
, CNETNews(Sept.8, 2003,10:57
AM),http://news.cnet.com/2100-1023_3-5072564.html.
17. Id.
18. LisaM.Bowman,
LabelsAimBigGunsatSmallFileSwappers
, CNETNews(June
25,2003,11:04AM),http://news.cnet.com/Labels-aim-big-guns-at-small-file-swappers/21
RIAAv.People5 Years
Later
1027_3-1020876.html;
, ElectronicFrontierFound.2 (Sept.
RIAA
v.People
].
2008),https://www.eff.org/files/eff-riaa-whitepaper.pdf
[hereinafter

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November
2012]

BitTorrent
Combating
Piracy

287

subpoenaprovisionof theDigital MillenniumCopyrightAct ("DMCA") to


of thesubscriber
compelISPs to disclose thenamesand contactinformation
connectedwitheach IP address.19
The RIAA began filingmass lawsuitsthatjoined togethermanyalleged
witheach IP addressrepresenting
a different
infringers,
putativedefendant
identified
as "JohnDoe."20Afterfilingthelawsuit,theRIAA would "ask the
courtto authorizesubpoenas againstthe ISPs."21These lawsuitspresaged
thecurrentBitTorrent
lawsuits,as theRIAA joined numerousJohnDoes in
one actionand filedtheactionsin forumsunlikelyto have personaljurisdiction over manyof the anonymousdefendants.22
Moreover,it soon became
clear
that
the
ultimate
of
these
lawsuits
was settlement:
afabundantly
goal
terobtainingthe identitiesof the JohnDoes, the recordcompaniesalmost
alwayssettledwiththedefendants.23
Many courtsauthorizedtheseinitialsubpoenasas a matterof course.24
Yet, when these subpoenaswere challengedon proceduralgrounds,courts
almostalways sided withthedefendants.25
The courtsspoke withparticular
forceon thejoinderissue. UnderRule 20 of theFederalRules of Civil Procedure,defendants
maybe joined togetherin one actionunderthefollowing
conditions:
to reliefis asserted
orin the
(A) Anyright
againstthemjointly,
severally,
alternative
withrespectto or arisingoutof thesametransaction,
ocorseriesoftransactions
oroccurrences;
and
currence,
toall defendants
willariseinthe
(B) Anyquestionoflaworfactcommon
action.26
When confronted
withfile-sharing
cases, a numberof courtsruledthat"defendants'use of the same ISP and [peer-to-peer]networksto allegedly
commitcopyright
forpermissive
is, withoutmore,insufficient
infringement

19. Recording
Indus.
Ass'nofAm.v.Verizon
Internet
Servs.,
Inc.,351F.3d1229(D.C.
Cir.2003).TheDMCAsubpoena
would
havecompelled
ISPstodisclose
thenames
provisions
ofsubscribers
whotheRIAAsuspected
ofinfringing
without
needfora court
17U.S.C.
order.
512(h)(2006).
20. John
Is Accusing
532PeopleofMusicPiracy
Schwartz,
, N.Y.
Recording
Industry
Jan.
Times,
21,2004,http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/21/business/21WIRE-MUSIC.html
21. RIAAv.People
, supranote18,at4.
22. SeeJoshua
M. Dickman,
andtheDemands
inMusic
Anonymity
ofCivilProcedure
Lawsuits
, 82Tul. L. Rev.1049,1053(2008).
Downloading
23. Seeid.at1059-60.
24. Id.at1059.
25. See,e.g.,LaFaceRecords,
LLC v. Does 1-38,No. 5:07-CV-298-BR,
2008WL
at*1(E.D.N.C.Feb.27,2008);BMGMusicv.Does1-203,No.Civ.A.04-650,
2004
544992,
WL953888,
at*1(E.D.Pa.Apr.2,2004);Interscope
Records
v.Does1-25,No.6:04-cv-1972004U.S.Dist.LEXIS27782,at*19-20(M.D.Fla.Apr.1,2004).Butsee,e.g.,
Orl-22DAB,
Arista
Records
LLC v. Does 1-19,551F. Supp.2d 1, 11-12(D.D.C.2008);London-Sire
Inc.v.Doe 1,542F.Supp.2d 153,180-81(D. Mass.2008).
Records,
26. Fed.R.Civ.P.20(a)(2).

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[Vol.111:283

joinder under Rule 20."27Other courtsfound thatjoinder was improper


because mostof thecomplaintsincluded"factuallydistinctactions"involving "different
property,facts, and defenses" that were broughtin one
lawsuit.28
Having foundmisjoinderin those cases, the courts severedthe John
Does pursuantto Rule 21, whichstatesthat"[misjoinderof partiesis nota
groundfordismissingan action.On motionor on its own,thecourtmay at
any time,on just terms,add or drop a party.The courtmay also severany
claim againsta party."29
The courts,however,were less willingto confront
of
remainedanonquestions personaljurisdictionso long as thedefendants
often
that
such
were
While
theflowof
ymous,
ruling
questions
premature.30
RIAA lawsuitsabated beforecourtscould definitively
such
lawsuits,
reject
the new BitTorrentfile-sharing
cases have renewedthe opportunity
for a
forcefuland clearrejectionof theseprocedurally
impropersuits.
B. BitTorrent
File Sharing
Even thoughthecourtsusuallyfoundmisjoinderin the RIAA lawsuits,
plaintiffsin BitTorrentlawsuits often neverthelessseek to join many
defendantsin single lawsuits.To understandwhy plaintiffscontendthat
file sharersis appropriate,it is important
to explain
joinder of BitTorrent
what distinguishesBitTorrent
file sharingfromfile sharingthroughother
services.Previousincarnations
of peer-to-peer
netpeer-to-peer
file-sharing
workssuffered
a free-rider
wherein
a
substantial
of
users
problem
majority
downloadedbutneveruploaded content.31
BitTorrent
"solve[s] theproblem
- by makingit architecturally
of [peer-to-peer]
freeridingquite elegantly
impossibleforany peer on thenetworkto take withoutgiving."32
By minithe
inefficiencies
caused
free
BitTorrent
facilitates
the
riders,
mizing
by
transmission
such
as
of
movies.33
files,
relativelyquick
large
full-length
it has explodedin popularityand currently
has over 100 milConsequently,
lion activemonthly
users.34

27. LaFaceRecords
at*3;seealsoFonovisa,
Inc.v.Does1-9,No.
, 2008WL544992,
2008WL919701,
at*5(W.D.Pa.Apr.3,2008)(holding
that
theplaintiff
failed
to
07-1515,
sufficient
tolinkallofthejoineddefendants).
allegeanyfacts
28. BMGMusic
at*1;seealsoInterscope
Records
, 2004U.S.Dist.
, 2004WL953888,
LEXIS27782,at*11.
29. Fed.R.CIV.P.21.
30. SeeDickman,
supranote22,at1095.
31. Annemarie
Is Online
Scalable
?, 13Vand.J.Ent.&
Copyright
Enforcement
Bridy,
Tech.L. 695,700(2011).
32. Id.at700-01.
A Survey
33. SeeRaymond
LeiXia& Jogesh
K. Muppala,
ofBitTorrent
Performance,
12IEEEComms.
Surveys& Tutorials140,140(2010).
- and
34. Austin
BitTorrent
Has MoreUsersthanNetflix
andHuluCombined
Carr,
Doubled
, FastCompany
(Jan.4, 2011,9:19AM),http://www.fastcompany.com/1714001/
100-million-users.
bittorrent-swells-to-

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November
2012]

BitTorrent
Combating
Piracy

289

Insteadof a centralizedserver,the BitTorrent


protocolworksby facilidistribution
of
data
between
the
users,
allowing themto exchange
tating
one
another
so
that
can
of
a
file
with
they
eventuallyassemblethose
pieces
The
into
a
of
that
file.35
completecopy
exchangeoccurs completely
pieces
whichhelpspeerslocate other
betweenpeersand is facilitatedby "a tracker,
A "swarm" is a group of peers thatare
peers offeringdesiredcontent."36
in
the
downloadingand sharingof a particularindividual
joined together
file.37The swarm is composed of two classes of peers: "leechers" and
"seeds."38"A leecheris a peer in theprocessof acquiringa file.A seed is a
peer thatalreadyhas a completecopy of thefileand thatremainsin thetorrentto servetheleechers.Everytorrent
requiresat least one seed."39In order
fora swarmto develop,one peer mustact as the"initialseed" and makethe
completefileavailableto interested
peers.40
A peer seekingto downloada new filestartsout as a leecher.To begin
theprocess,he mustdownloada "torrent"
filethatwill lead himto thereleThe trackerthen connects the leecher with the swarm
vant tracker.41
allowinghim to "download[] fixed-sizepieces of the requestedfile" from
As the leecherdownloadspieces of the file,he
peers withinthatswarm.42
shares
those
simultaneously
newlyacquiredpieces "withotherleechersin
the [swarm]."43
Once a leecherhas downloadedtheentirefile,he becomes a
new seed.44Thus,theswarmensuresthatall peersin theswarmare simultaneouslydownloadingfromand sharingwiththeirneighborspieces of the
particularfile.More peers in a swarmmake forfasterdownloads"because
In addition,theprotocol
thereare more sourcesof each piece of thefile."45
has an internalmechanismthatmakes surethatthosepeers who are "offering littleor nothingto the torrentwill get littleor nothingfromit."46This
providesan incentivefora peerto remainin theswarmeven afterthedownload is complete.47
35. DiabolicVideoProds.,Inc.v. Does 1-2099,No. 10-CV-5865-PSG,
2011WL
at*1(N.D.Cal.May31,2011).
3100404,
36. Bridy,
supranote31,at701.
37. Diabolic
at*1.
, 2011WL3100404,
38. Bridy,
omitted).
supranote31,at701(footnotes
39. Id.
40. Michael
White
Maximum
PC (July
Brown,
Works,
10,2009,
Paper:HowBitTorrent
8:00AM),http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/white_paper_bittorrent.
41. CarmenCarmack,
How BitTorrent
Works
, HowStuff
Works,http://computer.
howstuffworks.com/bittorrent2.htm
Mar.9, 2012).Torrent
filesareeasilyavaila(lastvisited
bleontheinternet.
Seeid.
42. Bridy,
supranote31, at701.
43. Id.
44. Xia& Muppala,
supranote33,at142.
45. Carmack,
note
supra 41.
46. Bridy,
supranote31, at702.
47. SeeCarmack,
that
userswhostayplugged
intoa swarm
after
supranote41 (noting
their
download
is complete,
andwhothuscontinue
tobe a source
fortheparticular
file,will
inthefuture).
faster
download
rates
enjoy

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[Vol.111:283

The key differencebetween BitTorrentand other peer-to-peerfilemakesfilesharinga cooperativeendeavor.


sharingsystemsis thatBitTorrent
In otherpeer-to-peer
systems,a peer searchesfora singlepeerwho possesses the desiredfile,and once located,the searchingpeer downloadsdirectly
fromthe sharingpeer.48So long as anotheruser is offeringcontentfor
download,thedownloadingpeer is underno obligationto shareanycontent
a peer who wishes to freeride on other
himself.However,withBitTorrent,
since
he cannotdownloadunlesshe contribwill
find
himself
stymied
peers
utesto theswarm.49
Moreover,BitTorrent
operatesin a largelydecentralizedfashion.Data is
not storedon a centralserver.Rather,a user downloadsthe filein discrete
userswho send data directlyto one another.50
segmentsfrommanydifferent
While trackerscoordinateand assist peers in locatinga swarm,the tracker
an extremelyeffiitselfsends out verylittledata.51This makes BitTorrent
and
at
the
same
files
cientmechanismfortransferring
time,it insulates
large
the protocolitselffromanti-piracyefforts"[b]ecause thereare no central
content."52
serversto enjoin fromunlawfullydistributing
Thus,
copyrighted
thecopyright
holderis
via BitTorrent,
data is transmitted
whencopyrighted
largelylimitedto holdingtheindividualfilesharersliable forinfringement.
Despite the legal precedentsderivedfromthe RIAA litigations,which
lawsuitsto befoundthose mass copyrightinfringement
almostuniformly
procedurallyinvalid,BitTorrentcopyrightowners have adopted the mass
lawsuitas theirprimaryvehicle for pursuingindividualinfringers.
Copyfrompreviouspeer-to-peer
rightholdersinsistthatBitTorrentis different
file sharing"necessitatesa concertedactionby
systemsbecause BitTorrent
Since obtaininga filerequires
manypeople in orderto disseminatefiles."53
all membersof a swarmto sharebits of thefilewithothermembersof the
swarm,the copyrightholdersargue thatall membersof the swarmhave
acted in concertto facilitatethe infringement.54
Consequently,copyright
holdersarguethatjoinderis properbecause theiractionsagainstthejoined
filesharersariseout of "thesame transaction,
occurrence,or seriesof transactionsor occurrences."55

48. Xia& Muppala,


supranote33,at140.
49. Id.
50. See FirstTimeVideos,LLC v. Does 1-500,276 F.R.D.241,244-45(N.D.111.
2011).
51. Id.at244.
2011WL
Inc.v. Does 1-2099,No. lO-CV-5865-PSG,
52. DiabolicVideoProds.,
at*2(N.D.Cal.May31,2011).
3100404,
atf 5,Pac.Century
53. Complaint
(DMR)
Int'l,Ltd.v.Does 1-101,No.C-l1-02533
8,2011),2011WL2461149.
(N.D.Cal.July
54. Seeid.
55. Fed.R.Civ.P.20(a)(2).

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November
2012]

BiTorrent
Piracy
Combating

29 1

II. Reining in Mass Lawsuits with Minimum


Procedural Requirements
For the plaintiffsin mass lawsuits against BiTorrentfile sharers,the
game is essentiallywon or lostat theexpediteddiscoverystage.If theplaintiffsobtainexpediteddiscovery,theyare freeto issue subpoenasrequiring
ISPs to disclose thename and addressof theaccountholderassociatedwith
the plaintiffis
each IP address.Armed with thatidentifying
information,
these
defendants
settle.
This
Part
freeto demandthat
putative
argues that
when
the mass
federaldistrictcourtsmust not grantexpediteddiscovery
lawsuitis procedurallydefective.It advocatesimposingminimumrequirementsto ensurethatJohnDoe defendantshave been properlyjoined and
thattheyare nothaled intoa courtthatlacksjurisdictionoverthem.Section
II.A providesa shortbackgroundon the expediteddiscoveryprocess. SectionII.B arguesthatJohnDoes shouldnotbe joined unlesstheyparticipated
in a contemporaneousswarm. Section II.C argues that plaintiffsshould
a good-faithbeliefthatthe forumwill have personaljurisdicdemonstrate
tionovereveryjoined defendant.
A. MovingforExpeditedDiscovery
Typically,discoveryis forbiddenbeforethe partieshave held a Rule
a party
However,undercertaincircumstances,
26(f) discoveryconference.56
take
seek
a
court
order
it
to
limited,expediteddiscoveryprior
allowing
may
to a discoveryconference.57
Copyrightholdersarguethattheyneed expedited discoverybecause theycannotidentifythe defendantsbeyondtheirIP
information
ataddresseswithoutsubpoenaingthe ISPs forthe identifying
tachedto each address.58
Most federaldistrictcourts confrontthe proceduralvalidityof these
motionforexpediteddiscovmass BiTorrent
lawsuitseitheron a plaintiff's
if
has
been
granted,on a defendant'sor ISP's
ery59or, expediteddiscovery
motionto quash a subpoena requestingthe name associated with the IP
56. Fed.R.Civ.P.26(d)(1).
57. Id.; seealsoAF Holdings,
LLC v.Does1-97,No.C-11-03067-CW
(DMR),2011
WL2912909,
at*1(N.D.Cal.July
a standard
that
courts
20,2011).Rule26doesnotspecify
should
whenassessing
a motion
forexpedited
andcaselawhasrevealed
employ
discovery,
twocommon
standards
themorestringent
discovtest,
employed
byjudges.Under
expedited
of someirreparable
under
themore
However,
eryis granted
onlyupona showing
injury.
thecourt
decides
whether
togrant
"basedon
liberal
"reasonableness"
test,
expedited
discovery
" InreFannie
inlight
the'reasonableness
oftherequest
ofallthesurrounding
circumstances.'
227F.R.D.142,142(D.D.C.2005)(quoting
MaeDerivative
Entm't
Tech.Corp.v.Walt
Litig.,
No.03-3546,
2003WL22519440,
at*3(E.D.Pa.Oct.2,2003)).HowDisney
Imagineering,
inmany
as tofacts
that
would
establish
is granted
ever,
courts,
discovery
jurisdiction
liberally.
SeeNuImage,
Inc.v.Does1-23,322,
799F.Supp.2d34,39-40(D.D.C.2011).
58. E.g.,Pac.Century
Inl,Inc.v. Does 1-101,No. C-l1-02533
(DMR),2011WL
at*1(N.D.Cal.July
2690142,
8,2011).
59. E.g.,NuImage
Inc.v.Does 1-1474,No.C
, 799F. Supp.2d34;NewSensations,
11-2770
2011WL4407222
MEJ,
(N.D.Cal.Sept.22,2011).

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292

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[Vol.111:283

address.60Across the country,and even withinthe same venue, district


courtsare spliton whetherto grantexpediteddiscoveryon the basis of a
Like theearlionlyanonymousJohnDoe defendants.
complaintidentifying
er RIAA lawsuits,the BitTorrentlawsuits raise the question of proper
joinder.UnlikewiththeRIAA lawsuits,however,severalcourtshave actualto thepersonaljurisdictionissue.
ly givenseriousconsideration
A plaintiff's
for
request expediteddiscoverymarkstheappropriatetime
forcourtsto addressissues ofjoinderand jurisdiction.Because none of the
JohnDoes can contesta motionforexpediteddiscovery,suchmotions"only
provideone side of [the]story,"and "courtsmustexaminethemwithparticin these mass
ular rigor."61
This is especiallytruegiven thatthe plaintiffs
aimed at obtaining"pre-servicediscovlawsuitspursuea litigationstrategy
so thatthecase effectively
ends once
eryand facilitating]mass settlement"
These
cases
are
neither
dehave
been
they
grantedexpediteddiscovery.62
and
to
ever
to
trial.63
nor
intended
joinder
go
By circumventing
signed
laws to implement
use copyright
personaljurisdictionrules,theseplaintiffs
thatis tantamount
to a "massive
a low-cost,high-volumelitigationstrategy
if
courts
do
not
address
collectionscheme."64
Thus,
proceduraldeficiencies
at this point,it is very likely that such deficiencieswill never be challenged.65
SwarmRequirement
B. ProperJoinder:The Contemporaneous
WhenconsideringwhetherJohnDoes have been properly
joined,judges
to show thatthedefendants
to plead factssufficient
shouldrequireplaintiffs
were not onlypartof the same swarm,but thattheywere partof the same
failto satisfythisstandswarmat thesame timeas one another.If plaintiffs
ard, expedited discovery should be denied and the improperlyjoined
defendantsshouldbe severedfromtheaction.66Generally,thismeansthata
would be unable to join everymemberof a swarmthatexistsfora
plaintiff
would have to show thatall
periodof time.67Rather,theplaintiff
protracted
Inc.v.Does1-188,809F.Supp.2d1150(N.D.Cal.2011).
60. E.g.,HardDriveProds.,
atthe
considered
oftheprocedural
issuesinthesecasesis thesamewhether
Theanalysis
toquash.
discovery
stageorona motion
expedited
at*3
61. Millennium
SC, 2011WL 1812786,
TGA,Inc.v.Does 1-21,No. 11-2258
(N.D.Cal.May12,2011).
at*6(N.D.Cal.
62. IO Grp.,
Inc.v.Does1^35, No.C10-04382
SI,2011WL445043,
Feb.3,2011).
63. See KeeganHamilton,
Porn,Piracy
; & BitTorrent
, Seattle Wkly.(Aug.10,
1-08-1
2011),http://www.seattleweekly.com/201
0/news/porn-piracy-bittorrent/.
at
LLC v.Does1-5011,No.C10-4472
64. SeeOntheCheap,
BZ,2011 WL4018258,
*5n.6(N.D.Cal.Sept.6,2011).
Part
IE.
seeinfra
65. Formore
onthelow-cost,
strategy,
litigation
high-volume
66. SeeFed.R.Civ.P.21.
No.C 11-02768
67. SeeThird
Filmsv.Does1-3577,
LB,2011WL5374569,
Degree
because
the3,000Doewasinappropriate
that
at*3(N.D.Cal.Nov.4,2011) (finding
joinder
seven
ofnearly
downloads
occurred
overa period
defendant
months).

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November
2012]

BitTorrent
Piracy
Combating

293

downloadedthecopyrighted
workovera shortenoughperiod
thedefendants
of timeto supporta probableinferencethatall thedefendantswere present
in the swarmat the same time.68Such a time period would usually span
hoursratherthandays or months.69
The key featuredistinguishingBitTorrentfile sharingfromthe filesharingprogramsat issue in theRIAA cases is thecooperativeactivitythat
takesplace withintheBitTorrent
swarm.This cooperativeactivityallows the
to
assert
that
BitTorrent
users' downloads "stem fromthe same
plaintiffs
or occurrence"since theprotocol"makeseverydownloaderalso
transaction
an uploaderof the illegallytransferred
file[]."70However,forthisclaim to
the
must
show
thateach joined defendantactually
supportjoinder, plaintiff
assistedall the otherjoined defendantsin obtainingthe file.71This is only
possible if all thejoined JohnDoes weremembersof thesame contemporaneous swarm.
A BitTorrent
swarmdevelopsarounda particularseeded file,ratherthan
a particularcopyrighted
work.72
Thus,therecan be (and usuallyare) several
different
files of the same copyrightedwork available for download,and
each fileis associatedwitha separateand distinctswarm.73
Thus,theissue is
notwhethermembership
in a commonswarmis necessaryforjoinder,74
but

68. Cf.Berlin
MediaArte.k.v.Does1-44,No. 11-03770
at
(JSC),2012WL215814,
*3(N.D.Cal.Jan.24,2012)(denying
motion
forexpedited
basedontheplaintiff's
discovery
failure
topleadthedateandtime
ofinfringement).
69. Although,
iftheplaintiff
couldshowthatalltheDoedefendants
remained
a partof
theswarm
fortheentire
then
Thekeyis that
beappropriate.
indiperiod,
joinder
might
every
vidualDoe'spresence
intheswarm
must
be coextensive
withevery
other
Doe that
hasbeen
joined.
70. CalloftheWildMovie,LLC v.Does 1-1062,770F. Supp.2d 332,343(D.D.C.
marks
Casesdiscussing
focuson the
2011)(internal
omitted).
quotation
joinder
generally
"sametransaction
oroccurrence"
ofRule20.Thesecond
ofthejoinder
test
prong
prong
whether
of
law
or
fact
common
to
all
defendants
will
in
Fed.
arise
the
action,"
"anyquestion
- is discussed
R. Civ.P.20(a)(2)(B)
insomecasesapproving
see,e.g.,Callofthe
discovery,
Wild
issuethatthecourt
mustaddress
, 770F. Supp.2dat343-44,butitisjustanancillary
sinceboth
ofthetestmust
besatisfied
forjoinder
tobeappropriate.
Ontheother
hand,
prongs
courts
donotneedtoaddress
thissecond
because
failure
denying
expedited
discovery
prong
tomeetthe"sametransaction
oroccurrence"
is sufficient
torender
prong
joinder
improper.
SeeCoughlin
v.Rogers,
130F.3d1348,1351(9thCir.1997)(noting
that
Rule20imposes
two
andthat
both
must
bemetfor
tobesustained).
requirements
joinder
71. MCGIP,
LLC v.Does1-149,No.C 11-02331
at*3(N.D.
LB,2011WL4352110,
Cal.Sept.16,2011) (rejecting
ofdefendants
because
"failed
toshowthat
joinder
plaintiff
any
ofthe149Doedefendants
oneanother").
actually
exchanged
anypieceoftheseedfilewith
72. HardDriveProds,
v. Does 1-53,No. C-l1-2330EDL,2011WL 2837399,
at *1
Int'lLtd.v. Does 1-101,No.C-l1-02533
(N.D.Cal.July14,2011);Pac.Century
(DMR),
2011WL 2690142,
at*3 (N.D.Cal.July
thata swarm
around
a
8, 2011)(noting
develops
file).
specific
73. Pac.Century
Int'lLtd.
at*3.
, 2011WL2690142,
74. SeeRawFilms,
Inc.v.Does1-32,No. 1:11-CV-2939-TWT,
2011WL6840590,
at
*1(N.D.Ga.Dec.29,2011)(noting
that
relied
ona "swarm
inarguplaintiff
joinder"
theory
is proper);
Massive'Expendables'
Lawsuit
but
ingthat
joinder
EriqGardner,
Piracy
Dropped
WillBe RefiledSoon, The HollywoodRep. (Aug. 26, 2011, 11:23AM), http://
www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/massive-expendables-piracy-lawsuit-dropped-2

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294

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[Vol.111:283

ratherwhethermembershipin a commonswarmalone is sufficient


to supAs
one
is
to
difficult
see
how
the
"[I]t
portjoinder.
judge explained,
sharing
and downloading... as partof a chain or 'swarm' of connectivity
designed
to illegallycopy and share the exact same copyrightedfile . . . could not
constitutea 'series of transactionsor occurrences'for purposes of Rule
werepartof thesame swarmdoes
20(a)."75It is not.Justbecause defendants
not mean that they were collaboratingwith all other membersof the
in a commonswarmdoes not establishthat
swarm.76
Merelyparticipating
one
defendant
bits
of theinfringed
fileto all otherdefendants
any
provided
in thatswarm.77
The same swarmcan continuein existenceforextendedperiodsof time,
sometimesmonths.78
When the activityof the defendantswithinthe swarm
covers a broad timespan, it is hardto believe thatall the defendantswere
For instance,it is imengaged in the "same transactionor occurrence."79
in
in
was stillin thatswarm
that
Doe
who
was
a
swarm
1,
January,
probable
in JunewhenDoe 100 entered.80
it
is
Indeed,
exceedinglyunlikelythat"[i]n
of [a] copythisage of instantdigitalgratification
... an alleged infringer
weeks
to
collect
the
bits of the
rightedworkwould patientlywait [several]
worknecessaryto watch the workas a whole."81Copyrightholdersinsist
thatjoinderis appropriatebecause "[e]ach putativedefendantis a possible
materisource . . . and may be responsiblefordistributing
the [copyrighted
However,ifDoe 1 is notin theswarm
al] to theotherputativedefendants."82
forjoining
usersfrom
swarms
thata studio
whoselawsuit
wasdismissed
(noting
multiple
inthefuture
defendants
who
masslawsuits
butonlybyjoining
tocontinue
topursue
planned
camefrom
a single
swarm).
at*5
75. Digital
2012WL263491,
Sin,Inc.v.Does1-176,No. 12-CV-00126
(AJN),
(S.D.N.Y.Jan.30,2012).
LHK (PSG),2011U.S. Dist.LEXIS
76. BoyRacerv. Does2-52,No. C 11-02834
theactivity
six-week
86746,at*8-9(N.D.Cal.Aug.5, 2011)("[T]henearly
spancovering
callsintoquestion
whether
there
wasevercommon
associated
witheachoftheaddresses
inthiscase.").
the51addresses
activity
linking
v.Does1-188,809F.Supp.2d 1150,1163(N.D.Cal.2011)
77. SeeHardDriveProds,
intheBitTorrent
Protocol
does
a Doeclicked
ona command
toparticipate
("Thebarefactthat
orthousands
ofindihundreds
notmeanthat
werepartofthedownloading
byunknown
they
oracross
theworld.").
viduals
across
thecountry
at*3
No.11-4220
78. SeeSBOPictures,
Inc.v.Does1-3036,
SC,2011WL6002620,
in thesame
(N.D.Cal. Nov.30,2011)("Here,theDoe Defendants'
allegedparticipation
2011").
from
swarm
a four-month
August
May2011through
spanned
approximately
period
2012
Inc.v.Does 1-131,No. 12-108-PHX-JAT,
79. ld.' seealsoThird
DegreeFilms,
fora swarm
that
is notappropriate
WL692993,
at*5(D. Ariz.Mar.1,2012)(finding
joinder
Hard
oneanother);
thatlastsmanymonths
becausesomeparticipants
mayneveroverlap
theactivity
assixweekspancovering
DriveProds.,
809F. Supp.2dat1163("[T]henearly
wasevera common
whether
there
witheachoftheaddresses
callsintoquestion
sociated
. . .").
[them].
activity
linking
at*2
2011WL6840590,
80. RawFilms,
Inc.v.Does1-32,No. l:ll-CV-2939-TWT,
(N.D.Ga.Dec.29,2011).
81. BoyRacer
, 2011U.S.Dist.LEXIS86746,at*9.
82. CalloftheWildMovie,LLC v.Does 1-1062,770F. Supp.2d 332,343(D.D.C.
2011).

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November
2012]

BitTorrent
Combating
Piracy

295

at the same timeas Doe 100, Doe 1 cannotbe a source forDoe 100, and
thusthetwoDoes shouldnotbe joined.83
By way of further
example,84imaginea swarmdevelopedarounda file
seeded byA. On Day 1, B, C , and D enterthatswarmwithA and help each
otheracquire the file by exchangingpieces of the file with one another.
Their exchange can fairlybe called the same "series of transactions"for
purposes of Rule 20.85 Now, afterthe exchange, assume all four stay
pluggedintothe swarmthroughDay 2, uploadingpieces of the fileto any
otherusers who enterinto the swarm.On Day 3, 5, C, and D disconnect.
The nextday E , F , and G entertheswarmwithA. Since theswarmdevelops
aroundthe file,E , F, and G are partof the same swarmthatA, B , and C
were in. However,now thefileexchangeis occurringbetweenA, E , F, and
B , C, and D have no involvement
G. By contrast,
withthesecond exchange
because theyleftthe swarm.86Given thatB , C, and D were not and could
notbe sourcesfor, F , and G, theformergroup'sacquisitionof thefilewas
a whollyseparateseries of transactionsfromthe latter's.Instead,the only
linkbetweenthepartiesis thatthey"used the same peer-to-peer
networkto
copy and reproduce[a plaintiff's]video[]," whichhas timeand again been
ruled insufficient
to meet the requirementsforjoinder.87So long as the
cannotallege more,theyfailto provethatthedefendantsengaged
plaintiffs
in closelyrelatedtransactions.88
No matterhow permissiveRule 20 joindermaybe,89therestillmustbe a
to
relationshipconnectingthe parties for their discrete infringements
83. See Berlin
MediaArte.k.v. Does 1-44,No. 11-03770,
2012WL 215814,at *3
see howjoinder
is proper
as here,
(N.D.Cal.Jan.24,2012)("[T]heCourtcannot
where,
'Plaintiff
that
defendant
shared
[did]notpleadfacts
showing
any
particular
illegally
plaintiff's
"
work
with
defendant.'
inoriginal)
alteration
(second
particular
anyother
(quoting
BoyRacer,
Inc.v.Does1-60,No.11-01738,
2011WL3652521,
at*4(N.D.Cal.Aug.19,2011))).
84. Itis worth
thatthisis a greatly
Inreality,
swarms
will
noting
simplified
example.
include
oreventhousands
hundreds
ofusers
andmaycontinue
formonths.
85. Fed.R.Civ.P.20(a).
86. See DiabolicVideoProds.,
Inc.v.Does 1-2099,
No. 10-CV-5865-PSG,
2011WL
at*2(N.D.Cal.May31,2011)(observing
that
a BitTorrent
downloader
"continues
3100404,
datatothepeersintheswarm
until
theusermanually
disconnects
form
distributing
[sic]the
theswarm
.... Theypopin
Hamilton,
swarm");
supranote63 ("Peoplecomeandgo from
andshare
fora while,
then
donesharing
andthey
leave.").
they're
87. HardDriveProds.,
Inc.v. Does 1-30,No. 2:llcv345,2011WL 4915551,
at *4
(E.D.Va.Oct.17,2011).
88. Diabolic
at*3.
, 2011WL3100404,
89. SeeUnited
MineWorkers
ofAm.v.Gibbs,
383U.S.715,724(1966)("Under
the
theimpulse
is toward
thebroadest
consistent
Rules,
with
entertaining
possible
scopeofaction
fairness
totheparties;
... is strongly
Notethat
must
be "conjoinder
encouraged.").
joinder
sistent
with
fairness
totheparties,"
andseeinfra
PartIII forwhy
is unfair
totheJohn
joinder
Does.Furthermore,
in[these]
Rule20(a)'spurcase[s]wouldundermine
"permitting
joinder
andtrialconvenience
becauseit wouldresult
in a
poseof promoting
judicialeconomy
case."HardDriveProds.,
Inc.v.Does1-188,809F.Supp.2d1150,
logistically
unmanageable
1164(N.D.Cal.2011);seealsoinfra
PartIII (explaining
thecasemanageability
issuespresented
byjoinder).

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[Vol.111:283

or occurrences.90
Plaintiffs
constitute
a seriesof transactions
arguethateven
if thedefendants
were notin theswarmat the same time,theystillactedin
in thatswarm"contributed
to thechainof
concertbecause theirparticipation
thisis not
data distribution."91
However,as theexampleabove demonstrates,
in
E , F, and
B
D
the
true.
Had
and
never
swarm,
,
C,
necessarily
participated
G would stillhave been able to obtainthefile.Thus,itis notalwaysthecase
in a BitTorrent
swarmpaved theway
thattheearlieractivityof participants
forlaterparticipants
to obtainthefile.92
Even outsideof thefile-sharing
context,courtshave ruledthatjoinderis
link."93In a series of lawsuits
"in
the
of
a
transactional
absence
improper
devices
used to illegallyintercept
defendants
accused
of
possessing
against
several
courtsruledthatthe
a satelliteprovider'sencrypted
communications,
defendantswere improperlyjoined.94 While the defendantsmay have
harmedthe satelliteproviderin the same way,each defendant'suse of the
act."95Absentanyconcertedactivity
device was "a separateand independent
the
was
Similarly,whena BitTorrent
joinder
improper.96
linking defendants,
fromthat
userleaves theswarm,any subsequentdownloadsare independent
user's activitypriorto his departure.Departedusers had no role in subseIn the
quentdownloadsnor did they"kn[o]w of theothers'transactions."97
and
E-F-G
A
the
B-C-D
fact
that
was
presentduring
example above, the
is not dispositive.That a commonpartymighthave facilitated
transactions

Inc.v. ReebokInt'l,Ltd.,305F. Supp.2d 888,892(N.D.111.


90. See SB Designs,
fourcompanies
accused
oftrademark
between
ofa relationship
thatabsence
2004)(finding
in"madepossible,"
becausenoneoftheparties
madejoinder
infringement
impermissible
&
Jackson
to anyotherdefendant's
Paine,Webber,
duced,or contributed
infringement);
Fenner
& Smith,
Inc.v.Merrill
Inc.,564F. Supp.1358,1370-71(D.
Pierce,
Curtis,
Lynch,
of
because"[a]negations
inanaction
forpatent
Del. 1983)(finding
infringement
misjoinder
thesame
actsdonotarisefrom
basedondifferent
twounrelated
parties
against
infringement
transaction").
at*3(N.D.
91. MCGIP,
LLC v.Does1-149,No.C 11-02331
LB,2011WL4352110,
Cal.Sept.16,2011).
andA withintheswarm
as theseeder
hadB stayed
92. Inthehypothetical
example,
oftheswarm
theearlier
withC andD, thatwouldbe a caseinwhich
drawn
helped
activity
ofactivity
arejustpossible
obtain
thefile.Thesehypotheticals
later
permutations
participants
anexample
that
tocomeupwith
itis possible
swarm.
Still,
justbecause
goingonina single
canbe
a connection
doesnotimply
that
times
swarm
from
twodifferent
connects
participants
thatall of"theDoe deWithout
evidence
between
atall times.
showing
forged
participants
is
download"
thecopyrighted
to illegally
fendants
actedin concert
work,
joinder
actually
Id.
oftime.
when
theswarm
period
spansanextended
inappropriate,
particularly
218F.R.D.639,642(S.D.Iowa2003).
93. DIRECTVv.Loussaert,
2004U.S.Dist.LEXIS24263(N.D.
In
re
94. E.g.,
DIRECTV,
Inc.,No.C-02-5912-JW,
296F. Supp.2d937(S.D.Ind.2003);LousInc.v.Beecher,
Cal.July
26,2004);DIRECTV,
218F.R.D.at639.
saert,
95. Loussaert
, 218F.R.D.at639.
Co. ofW.
96. See In reDIRECTV
, 2004U.S. Dist.LEXIS24263,at *9;Tele-Media
wasrequired
that
179F.R.D.75,76(D. Conn.1998)(finding
Conn.v.Antidormi,
jointaction
ofdefendants
tobeproper).
for
joinder
F.R.D.at643.
Loussaert
218
97.
,

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November
2012]

BiTorrent
Piracy
Combating

297

is notenoughto connectthepartiesto thosetranstwo separatetransactions


actionsforpurposesof Rule 20.98
Those courtsthatgrantmotionsforexpediteddiscoverygenerallydo so
because theyare convincedby the plaintiff'sassertionthateach JohnDoe
workat
of thecopyrighted
defendantmayhave had a role in thedistribution
has "suffiissue to any of the otherjoined defendants."Thus, the plaintiff
potentiallystemfrom
cientlyalleged that[its]claims againstthedefendants
these
courts
the same transactionor occurrence."100
Still,
acknowledgethat
"defendantsmaybe able to rebuttheseallegationslater"once theyare offiOf coursethiswill be of littlecomfort
ciallynamedand added to thesuit.101
to the JohnDoes since theywill be forcedto settlebeforetheycan rebut
in thesame
thoseallegations.102
Moreover,as explainedabove,participating
is
a
transacthat
there
sufficient
swarmby itselfdoes notnecessarilyprove
It is thus fair to
tional connectionto justifyjoining the participants.103
notjust a possibility
to beartheburdenof demonstrating
requiretheplaintiff
thatthedefendants
wereengagedin thesame transacbuta highprobability
tionor occurrence.
unreasonableand some complaints
This requirement
is not manifestly
already allege such detailed facts.For example, the complaintin Liberty
defendMedia Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-62 listed,foreach of thesixty-two
ants, the time and date that the alleged infringingactivityoccurred.104
activityoccurred
Accordingto thatcomplaint,all of the alleged infringing
swarmwill
over a periodof seven hours.105
Since membersof a BiTorrent
usually remain in a swarm for some time afterthey have completely
98. Cf.DIRECTV,
Inc.v.Boggess,
300F.Supp.2d444,449(S.D.W.Va.2004)("The
between
thedefendants
is thatallofthepirate
accessdevices
wereallegedly
onlyconnection
usedtointercept
thesamesatelfrom
thesameInternet
retailer
andwereallegedly
purchased
. . . [These]minimal
aretooremote
tomeetthe'reasonably
related'
litesignal.
allegations
test.").
at
Inc.v.Does1-1474,
No.C 11-2770
99. NewSensations,
MEJ,2011 WL4407222,
LLC v.Does1-1062,
770F.Supp.2d
*6(N.D.Cal.Sept.22,2011);CalloftheWildMovie,
275F.R.D.9, 15-16(D.D.C.
Inc.v.Does1-5829,
332,343(D.D.C.2011);W.CoastProds.,
2011).
100. CalloftheWild,
770F.Supp.2dat343(emphases
added).
101. Id.;seealsoRawFilms,
Ltd.v.John
Does1-11,No. 12cv368-WQH
(NLS),2012
WL684763,
notes. . . that
there
is a question
as to
at*4(S.D.Cal.Mar.2,2012)("TheCourt
willbeproven
whether
. . . joinder
oncethenecessary
facts
areestablished.").
appropriate
102. Seeinfra
PartIII; seealsoMCGIP,
LLC v.Does1-149,No.C 11-02331
LB,2011
WL4352110,
at*4 (N.D.Cal.Sept.16,2011)("MCGIP'slitigation
alsoeffectively
strategy
intheproceedings.
ofjoinder
issuesata laterpoint
. . . Deferring
a
consideration
precludes
onjoinder,
would'encourage[
tojoin(ormisjoin)
as many
doedethen,
ruling
][p]laintiffs
fendants
as possible.'"
inoriginal)
Arista
LLC v. Does 1-11,
Records,
(alterations
(quoting
No.l:07-CV-2828,
2008U.S.Dist.LEXIS90183,at*17(N.D.OhioNov.3,2008))).
103. SeeMCGIP
evidence
thattheDoe defendants
at*3 ("Absent
, 2011WL4352110,
actedinconcert
toillegally
download
onthose36separate
[thefilm]
days. . . joinder
actually
isinappropriate.").
104. Complaint,
MediaHoldings,
LLC v. Does 1-62,No. 11-CV-575-MMALiberty
NLS,2011WL6934460
(S.D.Cal.Dec.30,2011).
105. Id.

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298

MichiganLaw Review

[Vol.111:283

twoJohn
thatall sixtythispersuasivelydemonstrates
downloadedthefile,106
Does were physicallypresentin thatswarmat the same time,and thusthat
in
Doe 1 was a potentialsource forDoes 2 through62. Thus, the plaintiff
indeed
enthe
Does
were
that
all
demonstrated
Media
Liberty
adequately
or occurrence"and thuswereproperly
joined
gaged in the"same transaction
underRule 20(a).
: Resident-of-the-Forum-State
C. PersonalJurisdiction
Requirement
to share and acquire
People all over the United States use BitTorrent
files.107
Thus,whena plaintiff
joins numerousJohnDoes in a singlelawsuit
withoutmakingany effortto determinewhere the Does are located, it is
almostcertainthatmany,and likelymost,of the defendantslive outsideof
This raises thequestionof wheththeforumwherethatlawsuitwas filed.108
Does. The answeris
er thatforumwill havejurisdictionoverthenonresident
should notbe grantedexpediteddiscovclearly"no." Therefore,a plaintiff
ery when it "offers only speculation or conclusory assertions about
should be
Rather,a plaintiff
[defendants']contactswitha forumstate."109
requiredto establisha good-faithbeliefthatthe forumcourtwill have perbeliefcould
sonaljurisdictionoverall of thejoined JohnDoes. A good-faith
be shownby usinginexpensiveand readilyavailable geolocationtechnology
to approximatethelocationof each JohnDoe.110
A state's power to assertpersonaljurisdictionover a nonresidentdefendant is limited by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
without
alsouploadwillpunish
userswhoonlydownload
106. TheBitTorrent
protocol
oncea userhascompleted
downloading
supranote33,at140,sothat
ing,seeXia& Muppala,
seeHardDrive
forsometimeas a pureuploader,
intheswarm
hewilltendtoremain
a file,
v.Does1-188,809F. Supp.2d 1150,1162(N.D.Cal.2011).Still,theuseris notreProds,
userwilldo so
thatanyparticular
is noguarantee
andthere
toremain
as anuploader
quired
in
iforhowlonga userwillremain
ithardtoestimate
after
download,
making
anyparticular
thefile.
after
theswarm
acquiring
in North
SourceofInternet
Is Largest
107. See LeslieHorn,Report:
Traffic
Netflix
America
, PCMag.com(May 17, 2011, 3:14 PM), http://www.pcmag.com/article2/
for17.23
useaccounts
BitTorrent
thatrevealed
a study
2,OO.asp
0,2817,238551
(discussing
inNorth
second
traffic
ofInternet
America,
onlytoNetflix).
percent
108. See BerlinMediaArte.k.v. Does 1-654,No. 11-03770
(JSC),2011U.S. Dist.
Does'
oftheJohn
a random
at*5-6(N.D.Cal.Oct.18,2011) (taking
LEXIS120257,
sample
totheforum
couldbetraced
addresses
IP addresses
andfinding
state);
onlyoneofthethirteen
at*2
USACorp.v.Does 1-266,No. 10 Civ.8759(TPG),2011WL 1466073,
Digiprotect
was
thatthedefendant
that
outofthe166Doe defendants
(S.D.N.Y.Apr.13,2011)(finding
intheforum
accounts
toidentify,
state).
onlytenhadinternet
seeking
ofMd.,Inc.v.Carefirst
109. Carefirst
Inc.,334F.3d390,402(4thCir.
Ctrs.,
Pregnancy
2003).
2011WL
USA Corp.v. Does 1-240,No. 10 Civ.8760(PAC),
110. See DigiProtect
from
notbeexcused
should
that
theplaintiff
at*4(S.D.N.Y.Sept.26,2011)(finding
4444666,
oftheeasyavailability
because
state
totheforum
wereconnected
that
thedefendants
showing
799F. Supp.2d 34,40 (D.D.C.
Inc.v.Does 1-23,322,
NuImage,
oflocating
information);
basisfor. . . personal
... a goodfaith
canestablish
byutilizing
jurisdiction
2011)("Plaintiff
locatheapproximate
toderive
tothepublic
available
services
thataregenerally
geolocation
foreachputative
identified
tionoftheIP addresses
defendant").

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November
2012]

BitTorrent
Combating
Piracy

299

For a nonresidentdefendantto be subject to the personal


Amendment.111
of
the
forumstate,"he [must]have certainminimumcontacts
jurisdiction
withit such thatthemaintenanceof thesuitdoes notoffend'traditionalnotions of fair play and substantialjustice.'"112The nonresidentdefendant
musthave sufficient
contactswiththe state"such thathe shouldreasonably
A defendantcan "reasonablyanhaled
intocourtthere."113
anticipatebeing
to
another
state's
ticipate"being subject
jurisdictionif he "purposefully
avails [him]self of the privilegeof conductingactivitieswithinthe forum
of itslaws."114
State,thusinvokingthebenefitsand protections
However,the
defendantcannotbe "haled intoa jurisdictionsolelyas a resultof 'random,'
A federaldistrictcourt'sabilityto
or 'attenuated'contacts."115
'fortuitous,'
assertpersonaljurisdictionover a defendantis governedby the long-arm
statuteof the statein whichthatcourtsits.116
A state'slong-armstatuteallows a court to exercise personal jurisdictionto the maximum extent
allowedby theDue ProcessClause.117
The typeof personaljurisdictionat issue in theBitTorrent
mass lawsuits
is specificjurisdiction,in whichthe lawsuit"aris[es] out of' or relate[s]to
thedefendant'scontactswiththeforum."118
While personaljurisdictiondoes
not depend on a JohnDoe's physicalpresencein the forumstate,he still
must"purposefully
direct"his infringing
activitiestowardtheforumstate.119
cases pose a particularchallengeto the assertionof perAlthoughinternet
sonal jurisdiction,it is hard see how any theoryof personaljurisdiction
111. Helicpteros
Nacionales
deColombia,
S.A.v.Hall,466U.S.408,413-14(1984).
112. InlShoeCo.v.Washington,
326U.S.310,316(1945)(quoting
Milliken
v.Meyer,
311U.S.457,463(1940)).
113. World-Wide
444U.S.286,297(1980).
Volkswagen
Corp.v.Woodson,
114. Burger
471 U.S. 462,475 (1985)(quoting
Hansonv.
KingCorp.v. Rudzewicz,
357U.S.235,253(1958))(internal
marks
OntheCheap,
LLCv.
Denckla,
omitted);
quotation
Does1-5011,No.C10-4472
at*4(N.D.Cal.Sept.6,2011).
BZ,2011WL4018258,
115. Burger
Keeton
v.Hustler
, 471U.S.at475(quoting
Inc.,465U.S.
King
Magazine,
770,IIA (1984),andWorld-Wide
, 444U.S.at299).
Volkswagen
116. Schwarzenegger
v.FredMartin
Motor
Co.,374F.3d797,800(9thCir.2004).
117. Id.at800-01.Somestates'
statutes
aremore
intheir
restrictive
limits
on
long-arm
thanis theDueProcess
Clause.ManyBitTorrent
casesaddressing
personal
jurisdiction
personaljurisdiction
insuchstates.
havebeendecided
USACorp.v.Does
See,e.g.,DigiProtect
Inc.
1-240,No.10Civ.8760(PAC),2011WL4444666
(S.D.N.Y.Sept.26,2011);NuImage,
v.Does1-23,322,
799F. Supp.2d34,38 (D.D.C.2011);Digiprotect
USACorp.v.Does1at*3 (S.D.N.Y.Apr.13,2011).Sincethis
266,No.10Civ.8759(TPG),2011WL 1466073,
Section
that
overout-of-state
John
Doescouldnever
beconsistent
argues
personal
jurisdiction
withtheDueProcess
means
thatitwouldalsobeinconsistent
under
Clause,thisnecessarily
more
restrictive
statutes.
long-arm
118. Helicpteros
Nacionales
deColombia,
S.A.v.Hall,466U.S.408,414n.8(1984);
seealsoLiberty
MediaHolding,
LLC v.Tabora,
No.1l-cv-651-IEG
2012WL28788,
(JMA),
at*2(S.D.Cal.Jan.4,2012)(finding
inthisBitTorrent
that
case,"theonlyissue
file-sharing
is whether
theCourt
hasspecific
over[the]Defendant").
Theother
jurisdiction
typeofpersonaljurisdiction
is "general
inwhich
a defendant
has"sufficient
with
contacts"
jurisdiction,"
theforum
statesuchthatpersonal
is appropriate
eventhough
theclaimdidnot
jurisdiction
ariseoutofthose
contacts.
, 466U.S.at414-15.
Helicpteros
119. Burger
47
1
U.S.
at
374F.3dat802.
,
476;
King
Schwarzenegger,

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300

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based on internetactivitycould subject a BitTorrent


file sharerto another
state'spersonaljurisdictionbased on an exchangeof a smallpiece of a copfilewitha userfromthestateassertingjurisdiction.120
yrighted
Given thatBitTorrent
file sharersare largelyprivateindividualsdownfiles
for
the defendants'internetactivity
loading
privateconsumption,121
reaches
the
level
of
that
hardly
commerciality would makepersonaljurisdictionappropriate.122
Moreover,the merefactthata defendant'sinvolvement
in a swarmresultsin contactwitha foreignjurisdictiondoes notmean that
thedefendant"purposefully
directed"his activitytowardthatjurisdiction.123
in a swarmhas no controlover wherehe distributes
Indeed,"a participant
the information
.... Wherethe filesget distributed
to is controlledby the
in theswarm. . . ."124Thus,a BitTorrent
locationof otherparticipants
user's
contactwith a foreignjurisdictionis randomand unintentional.125
Since
JohnDoes do not"expresslyaim" theirwrongfulconductat a foreignjurisunfairto thedefendants
to subjectthemto
diction,it would be substantially
suitin anyforeignjurisdictionthattheycame intocontactwiththroughtheir
in a BitTorrent
swarm.126
participation
These factsmake it clear thatout-of-state
JohnDoes cannotbe haled into a foreignjurisdiction.A judge should not granta plaintiff'sexpedited
discoveryrequestas to defendantswho would laterbe dismissed,were the

120. See BerlinMediaArte.k.v. Does 1-654,No. 11-03770


(JSC),2011U.S. Dist.
LEXIS120257,
at*7(N.D.Cal.Oct.18,2011).
121. SeeSolutions
Research
MovieFile-Sharing
, SolutionsRes.
Booming:
Study
Grp.,
Group(Jan.24, 2006),http://www.srgnet.com/pdf/Movie%20File-Sharing%20Booming%
20Release%20Jan%2024%2007%20Final.pdf.
122. SeeZippoMfg.Co. v.ZippoDotCom,Inc.,952F. Supp.1119,1124(W.D.Pa.
a testforpersonal
basedoninternet
contacts
that
evaluated
the
1997)(articulating
jurisdiction
onthe"nature
andquality
ofcommercial
that
ofpersonal
activity
appropriateness
jurisdiction
anentity
conducts
overtheInternet");
seealsoBE2 LLC v.Ivanov,
642F.3d555,558(7th
the[forum
Cir.2011)("Ourinquiry
boilsdowntothis:has[defendant]
purposely
exploited
state's]
market?").
123. Keeton
v. Hustler
Inc.,465 U.S. 770,774 (1984);see also Calderv.
Magazine,
wasappropriate
when
465 U.S. 783,789 (1984)(holding
thatpersonal
Jones,
jurisdiction
toward
theforum
state
andthebrunt
ofthe
defendant
aimed"
their
tortious
"expressly
activity
Inc.v.Augusta
harm
wasfelttherein);
Bancroft
& Masters,
Nat'l,Inc.,223F.3d1082,1087
intheforum
effect
state
thatout-of-state
witha foreseeable
(9thCir.2000)(stating
activity
without
doesnotgiverisetopersonal
more,"
interpreting
"something
jurisdiction
"something
more"
as anexpress
oftheactattheforeign
aiming
jurisdiction).
124. Liberty
LLC v. Tabora,
No. ll-cv-651-IEG
MediaHolding,
(JMA),2012WL
28788,at*3(S.D.Cal.Jan.
4,2012).
Serv.Consultants,
125. SeeALS Scan,Inc.v.Digital
Inc.,293F.3d707,714(4thCir.
other
that
a testforpersonal
internet
2002)(articulating
things,
jurisdiction
requiring,
among
within
inbusiness
orother
interactions
thedefendant
ofengaging
[a]
"manifest[]
[an]intent
hadregular
that
a publisher
whosemagazine
, 465U.S.atIIA, 781(finding
State");
cf.Keeton
the
anddeliberately
had"continuously
salesin theforum
exploited"
monthly
jurisdiction
forittobesuedthere).
forum's
market
suchthat
itwasreasonable
whosimply
126. See Calder,
465U.S.at789;ALSScan, 293F.3dat714("[A]person
ineachStateinto
tojurisdiction
doesnotsubject
himself
ontheInternet
placesinformation
seealsoBancroft
istransmitted
andreceived.");
which
theelectronic
, 223F.3dat1088.
signal

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2012]

BitTorrent
Combating
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301

The minimumpersonaljurisdictionrequirement
suit to move forward.127
beliefthatall named
show it has a good-faith
would mandatethata plaintiff
JohnDoes reside (or engagedin the infringing
activity)withinthe forum's
in
belief
To
show
a
personaljurisdiction,the plaintiff
territory.
good-faith
means.Good-faith
could use geolocationtechnologyor some othereffective
beliefcan be establishedby showingthatthe IP addresscomes fromor is
Such a requirement
entails
reasonablyproximateto theforum'sterritory.128
minimalcost to theplaintiff
as thistechnologyis cheap and readilyavailable.129
The existence of such technologyunderminesthe rationaleof those
courtsthatbelieve that withoutjurisdictionaldiscovery,plaintiffscannot
make theircase forpersonaljurisdictionbased on the limitedinformation
theyhave on theJohnDoes.130While thegeolocationtechnologymightnot
be 100 percentaccurate,it is stillsufficiently
accurateto place a JohnDoe
if
near
the
not
within
it.131
At
the veryleast, geolocation
very
jurisdiction,
is
accurate
to
a
technology
enough support good-faithbeliefthattheIP addressoriginatesfromor nearthejurisdiction.132
holdersdo notuse thistechnologyand instead
However,manycopyright
that
allege
merelyby engagingin a swarmwithany one defendantwho is
foundin the forumstate,all defendantshave engagedin concertedactivity
withinthatjurisdictionsufficient
to conferpersonaljurisdiction.133
Accepting this theorywould mean that any user of BitTorrentis subject to
jurisdictionin any state where anothermemberof the swarm may be
This resultis unfairand fallsfarshortof thepurposefulavailment
found.134
standard.135
One judge was untroubledby such a resultbecause BitTorrent
file sharingdoes not involve"generalInternetaccess, but specificuse of a
file-sharing
protocolthatmay touch multiplejurisdictionsto effectuatea
downloadof a singlecopyrighted
work."136
However,thatargumentfailsto
meansthattheassertionof personaljurisdiction
explainwhythisdifference
127. SeeNuImage,
Inc.v.Does1-23,322,
799F.Supp.2d34,41 (D.D.C.2011).
128. Seeid.(suggesting
thatgood-faith
basisforjurisdiction
is madeifthegeolocation
search
locates
theIP address
within
theforum
orwithin
a citylocated
within
milesof
thirty
theforum).
129. DigiProtect
USA Corp.v. Does 1-240,No. 10 Civ. 8760 (PAC),2011WL
at*4(S.D.N.Y.Sept.26,2011).
4444666,
130. See CalloftheWildMovie,LLC v. Does 1-1062,770F. Supp.2d 332,347-48
(D.D.C.2011).
131. NuImage
, 799F.Supp.2dat41.
132. See, e.g.,id.;DigiProtect,
2011WL4444666,
at*4.
133. See OntheCheap,
LLC v.Does1-5011,No.C10-4472
at
BZ,2011WL4018258,
*4(N.D.Cal.Sept.6,2011).
134. Seeid.
135. Id.; see also Millenium
TGAv. Doe, No. 10 C 5603,2011U.S. Dist.LEXIS
110135,
at*7 (N.D.111.
ina swarm
that
is notenough
Sept.26,2011)(agreeing
participation
toconfer
personal
jurisdiction).
136. CalloftheWildMovie,LLC v.Does 1-1062,770F. Supp.2d332,347(D.D.C.
2011).

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overtheJohnDoes would not"offendthefundamental


fairnesswhichis the
touchstoneof due process."137
that
BitTorrent
file sharing
Especially given
involves
individuals
files
from
their
homes
forprigenerally
downloading
vateconsumption,
it is a stretchto assertthatthenonresident
defendants
had
"minimum
with
a
contacts"
forum
adequate
foreign
jurisdiction.
Some courtsrefuseto address the personaljurisdictionissue because
theybelieve thatdoing so would be premature.138
They reason thatRule
allows
defendants
to
raise
this
issue.139
Since JohnDoes do
12(b)(2) only
not officiallybecome defendantsuntiltheyare named in the suit and nonpartiescannotraise theissue of personaljurisdiction,thesecourtshave held
thatdefendants
cannotseek dismissalbased on lack of personaljurisdiction
beforetheyhavebeen officially
namedin thesuit.140
courts
can
still
exercise
theirbroad discretionto denydiscovHowever,
to
who
cannot
show
a
ery plaintiffs
good-faithbelief thatthe forumcourt
has personaljurisdictionoverall defendants,
even if such defendants
cannot
seek dismissalfromthesuiton thatbasis.141
UnderRule 26(b)(2)(C), federal
courtsmustlimitotherwisepermissiblediscoverywhen "theburdenor expense of theproposeddiscoveryoutweighsits likelybenefit."142
Employing
that discretionto limit discoveryis particularlyimportantbecause "the
Courthas a dutyto preventundueburden,harassment,
and expenseof third
A nonparty'sinabilityto move to dismissunderRule 12(b)(2) is
parties."143
irrelevant
to a judge's discretionto managediscoveryunderRule 26. Thus,a
judge can exercisethis managerialdiscretionto deny discoverywhen the
cannotshow a good-faithbeliefthatthecourthas jurisdictionover
plaintiff
all theJohnDoes.144
III. Why the JohnDoes Need Protection
Whena courtis confronted
witha procedurally
defectivemass copyright
it
should
never
those
suit,
infringement
ignore
proceduraldefectsand grant
If
those
issues
are notaddressedearly,they
expediteddiscovery.
procedural
will neverbe addressedat all because theplaintiff-copyright
holders' lowmass
cost, high-volume
litigationstrategyeffectively
precludesthe John
Does fromdefendingthemselvesonce theiridentitieshave been discovered.
Given this,enforcingminimumjoinder and personaljurisdictionrequirements before granting expedited discovery will provide substantial
137. Burger
471U.S.462,470(1985).
KingCorp.v.Rudzewicz,
138. See, e.g.,W. CoastProds.,
Inc.v. Does 1-5829,275 F.R.D.9, 14-15(D.D.C.
2011).
139. SeeFed.R. Civ.R 12(b)(2)("[A]party
thefollowing
defenses
mayassert
bymotion. . . lackofpersonal
. . . ."(emphasis
added)).
jurisdiction
140. See,e.g.,First
TimeVideos,
LLCv.Does1-500,276F.R.D.241,250-51(N.D.111.
2011).
141. NuImage,
Inc.v.Does1-23,322,
799F.Supp.2d34,36(D.D.C.2011).
142. Fed.R.Civ.P.26(b)(2)(C)(iii).
143. SeeNuImage
, 799F.Supp.2dat36-37.
144. Id.at37.

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2012]

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to theJohnDoes. Moreover,theseminimumrequirements
would
protection
not be unfairto the plaintiffs
because theywould only ask the plaintiffs
to
if
what
would
have
to
their
cases
were
to
to
trial.
they
prove
prove
go
The commonrefrainechoed by courtsdecliningto conducta searching
examinationofjoinderand personaljurisdictionissues at theexpediteddiscoverystage is thatdoing so would be premature.145
They insistthatthe
defendantsshouldraise such defensesonce theyare identified
and namedto
the lawsuit.146
However,thispositionignoresthe realitybehindthesemass
lawsuits:the plaintiff
has pursueda litigationstrategythateffectively
precludes laterconsiderationof these issues.147When confronted
withsuch a
discoveryrequest,"a courtis notrequiredto blinditselfto the purposefor
whicha partyseeks information."148
It is truetheplaintiffs
in thesecases generallyhave legitimatesubstantive groundsfortheirallegationsof copyrightinfringement,
and certainly
the majorityof plaintiffs
are motivatedat least in partby sincerecopyright
enforcement
interests.149
also recognizethatby takHowever,the plaintiffs
certain
can
turn
enforcement
intoa lucrative
ing
proceduralshortcuts,
they
businessmodel.150
The low-cost,high-volumemass lawsuitjoins all alleged
in one action and disregardspersonaljurisdictionrequirements,
infringers
to filea singleclaim in a singlevenue and therebyminiallowingplaintiffs
mize litigationcosts.151
A singleactionhas thepotentialto reap theplaintiff
in
the
sixand even seven-figure
monetarygains
range,whereasadheringto
plausible theoriesof joinder and jurisdiction(which would likelyrequire
theactionintoseveraldifferent
less
actions)would be substantially
splitting
profitable.152
In additionto themass formof thelawsuit,theprofitability
of thelowcost, high-volumemodel depends on the lawsuitnevergoing to a jury.153

145. See, e.g.,CalloftheWildMovie,


LLC v.Does1-1062,
770F. Supp.2d332,341,
345(D.D.C.2011).
146. Id.
147. See MCGIP,LLC v.Does 1-149,No.C 11-02331
at*4
LB,2011WL4352110,
(N.D.Cal.Sept.16,2011).
148. Oppenheimer
Inc.v.Sanders,
437U.S.340,352n.17(1978).
Fund,
149. SeeM.AlexJohnson,
PornPiracy
WarsGetPersonal
, msnbc.com
20,2011,
(July
8:06AM),http://www.technolog.msnbc.msn.com/technology/technolog/porn-piracy-w
personal-121928.
150. SeeArtNeill,Doesa NewWave
Lawsuits
a NewBusiness
ofFilesharing
Represent
ModelforCopyright
J.InternetL.,June
a single
Owners?,
2011,at 1,8-9.Forexample,
action
allowstheplaintiff
toavoidpaying
fees.AllanGregory,
TheEconomics
multiple
filing
Lawsuits, TorrentFreak (Sept. 18, 2011),
) Mass-BitTorrent
of (Killing
10918/.
http://torrentfreak.com/the-economics-of-killing-mass-bittorrent-lawsuits-l
151. See DavidKravets,
HowMassBitTorrent
Turn
Lawsuits
MoviesInto
Low-Budget
Big Bucks,WIRED (March31, 2011, 2:36 PM), http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/
2011/03/bittorrent/.
152. Id.
153. SeeHamilton,
supranote63.

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304

MichiganLaw Review

[Vol.111:283

Rado not expect,nor do theywant,to go to trial.154


Indeed,theplaintiffs
ther,theirlitigationstrategyhingeson the defendants'acceptanceof their
obtainsthe identityand contactinforoffer.When the plaintiff
settlement
mationof the individualJohnDoes, each one is contactedand threatened
offeris generally
The settlement
witha lawsuitunless he agreesto settle.155
in therangeof $2,000-$5,000, a numbercalculatedto be less thanthecost
of hiringa defense attorney.156
Moreover,the settlementofferalerts the
defendantthatlosing in courtcould resultin liabilityof up to $150,000 in
damages.157
Consequently,"thepressureto settleratherthanraise
statutory
In essence, mass lawsuitsare "a strongtool
is
defenses
high."158
legitimate
- a tool whose efficiency
is largelyderivedfrom
forleveragingsettlements
theplaintiffs'success in avoidingthefilingfees formultiplesuitsand gainingearlyaccess en masse to theidentitiesof thealleged infringers."159
are not "so
costs low, plaintiffs
Given the need to keep administrative
Doe is
innocent
John
an
meticulousin theirsearchfortargets."160
"[S]ince
take
not
need
to
do
the
as
a
to
as
lawyers
guiltyone,"
likely pay up
just
muchcare in ensuringthattheJohnDoe actuallywas engagedin infringing
The strategyhas been describedas "shootfirst,and identify. . .
activity.161
Some plaintiffs
later."162
anticipatecases of mistakenidentityby astargets
in
letters
thatthe defendantis "liable forcopyright
their
settlement
serting
even
an
infringement
by merelyhaving unsecuredwirelessnetwork/router
is
an
assertion
such
the
work."163
not
download
did
Yet,
unsupthough[he]
or vicariousliability.164
infringement
portedby any theoryof contributory
is to
theonlypurposeof makingsucha blatantlyfalsestatement
Apparently,
will
settle.
so
that
he
he
is
into
accused
scarethewrongfully
guilty
believing
cares moreaboutwhether
who makessucha statement
Obviously,a plaintiff
the defendantactually
than
whether
the defendantcan pay the settlement
thealleged infringement.
committed
154. Id.
155. Id.
156. SeeCohn,
supranote2.
157. E.g.,SteeleLetter,
supranote2.
note
2.
158. Cohn,
supra
at *4 n.5
159. MCGIP,LLC v.Does 1-149,No.C 11-02331
LB, 2011WL4352110,
(N.D.Cal.Sept.16,2011).
160. Hamilton,
supranote63.
161. Id.
162. Id.
Is Pornography
163. William
?, CourthouseNewsService
Copyrightable
Dotinga,
seealso
(Feb.3, 2012,12:30PM),http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/02/03/43613.htm;
defendant
SteeleLetter,
implicitly
solelybyIP address,
supranote2 (identifying
potential
thework
couldhavedownloaded
orrouter
with
accesstothenetwork
that
anyone
suggesting
inquestion).
Inc.v.Grokster,
Studios
164. SeeMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Ltd.,545U.S.913,930(2005)
direct
orencouraging
infringement,
("Oneinfringes
inducing
contributorily
byintentionally
a
toexercise
whiledeclining
direct
from
andinfringes
infringement
byprofiting
vicariously
it."(citations
tostoporlimit
omitted)).
right

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2012]

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305

Lying about potentialliabilityis but one example of the bad behavior


thatthesemass lawsuitsbreed.In some cases, theconductof theplaintiffs,
in prosecutingthese mass lawsuitshas been deemed so
or theirattorneys,
unethicalthatit has been sanctionedor threatened
withsanctions.165
In one
an
for
an
adult
video
instance,
particularly
egregious
attorney
producerfiled
a motionforexpediteddiscoverythatthecourtdid notimmediately
grant.166
In responseto thedelay,theattorneyvoluntarily
dismissedthecase and instead served unauthorizedsubpoenas upon the ISPs. Upon receivingthe
identitiesof theJohnDoes, theattorney
begancontactingthemand demandsettlements.167
The
ing
judge presidingover the dismissedaction ordered
sanctionsand chastisedthe attorneyforhis "staggeringchutzpah,"observing that"[t]he Court rarelyhas encountereda more textbookexample of
conductdeservingof sanctions."168
Cost concernsand bad-faithplaintiffs
are not the only obstaclesa John
Doe facesin defendinghimself.An additionalfactorworksstrongly
in favor
of settlement:
thenatureof the copyrighted
material.Often,the workat issue is a pornographic
film.169
While thedefendantmightbe confidentin his
forward
with
the case would resultin him being outedto
defense,pressing
his family,friends,and community
as a viewerof pornography.170
That risk
alone is enoughto make a potentialdefendant"inclinedto agree to pay a
fewthousanddollarsto makethewhole embarrassing,
inconvenient
mess go
away."171
Yet, a defendantwho neverthelessdecides to forgeahead in courtwill
encounteradditionalhurdles,namelythe "significantcase manageability"
and logistical issues that mass joinder creates.172
Consider the following
example:

165. Fed.R. Civ.P. 11;see,e.g.,MickHaigProds.,


e.K.v.Does1-670,No.3:10-CV2011WL 5104095,
at *1,*5 n.9(N.D.Tex.Sept.9, 2011)(sanctioning
1900-N,
plaintiff's
forserving
unauthorized
onISPsunder
Rules26 and45,butfinding
that
attorney
subpoenas
Rule11 factors
"alsomilitate[d]
infavor
ofthesanctions");
Inc.v.Does1-85,No.
K-Beech,
3:llcv469-JAG
(E.D. Va. Oct.5, 2011),availableat https://www.eff.org/files/K-Beech.pdf
ordered
toshowcauseforwhyitsconduct
didnotviolate
Rule11).
(plaintiff
166. MickHaig,2011WL5104095,
at*1.
167. Id.at*2,*5.
168. Id.at*5.
169. Whilemany
ofthecopyrighted
works
atthecenter
oftheselawsuits
aregenerally
either
orlow-budget,
little-seen
there
aresomenotable
B-movies,
pornography
exceptions.
Forexample,
theAcademy
film
nota boxoffice
The
blockbuster)
Award-winning
(although
HurtLocker
wasatthecenter
ofthecaseVoltage
LLCv.Does1-5000
Pictures,
, 818F.Supp.
2d28(D.D.C.2011),andtheSylvester
Stallone
action
hitTheExpendables
wasatissueinNu
Inc.v.Does1-23,322
, 799F.Supp.2d34(D.D.C.2011).
Image,
170. MickHaig, 2011WL5104095,
at*1n.7.
171. AlisonFrankel,
How PornoPiracyCases AreBreaking
Ground
,
Copyright
Thomson
Reuters(Sept.8, 2011),http://blogs.reuters.com/alison-frankel/2011/09/09/how
porno-piracy-cases-are-breaking-copyright-ground/.
172. OnTheCheap,
LLC v.Does1-5011,No.C10-4472
at*2
BZ,2011 WL4018258,
Inc.v.Does1-188,809F.Supp.2d 1150,1164
(N.D.Cal.Sept.6,2011);HardDriveProds.,
theadministrative
difficulties
causedbymassjoinder,
where
each
(N.D.Cal.2011)(noting

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[Vol.111:283

JohnDoe 1 couldbe an innocent


whoseinternet
accesswas abused
parent
witha
by herminorchild,whileJohnDoe 2 mightsharea computer
roommate
whoinfringed
Plaintiffs'
works.JohnDoes 3 through
203 could
be thieves,
Plaintiffs'
believe,inexcusably
justas Plaintiffs
pilfering
propof theroyalties
them,andtheirartists,
ertyanddepriving
theyarerightly
owed.173
Giventhediversepool of defendants,
it is likelythatmanywould raise different legal defenses based on their unique factual circumstances.
Consequently,
joinderwould createchaos and resultin "scoresof mini-trials
different
evidence and testimony"being conductedwithinthe
involving
same action.174
The costsand administrative
difficulties
of dealingwithsuch
a complexand protracted
case would be exacerbatedforthedefendantwho
mustdefendhimselfin a farawayjurisdictionwithwhichhe has no connectionwhatsoever.175
Some courtsthathave grantedexpediteddiscoveryin such cases have
made the dubious assertionthatjoinder will actuallybenefitthe putative
defendants.For this conclusion,theyrely on a RIAA case, London-Sire
Records,Inc. v. Doe 1, in whichthecourtheld thatgiventhe"similar,even
from
virtuallyidentical,issues of law and fact,"the defendantsbenefitted
theability"to see thedefenses,if any,thatotherJohnDoes have raised."176
Yet London-Sireinvolvedmainlycollege studentswhose IP addressescame
fromwithinthe court'sjurisdiction.177
Thus, because the defendantswere
similarlysituatedactors,thelikelihoodthattheywould have similardefenses was greater.The universeof defendantsin theBitTorrent
lawsuitsis not
so limited,and "many of the Doe defendantswill likely raise different
In a single case, one Doe might be a
factual and legal defenses."178
who "doesn't know whata BitTorrent
is,"179
seventy-year-old
grandmother
and anothermightbe a legally blind person who is unable to even view
movies.180Given this samplingof the disparatesubstantivedefensesthat
defendants
could raise,along withtheproceduralclaims,it seems clear that
to thedefendant.
joinderis detrimental
couldbe "present
andaddress
the
defendant
filedifferent
andanydefendant
motions,
might
"a thoroughly
court"
atanyproceeding
orother
event
defendant,
anyother
creating
involving
situation").
unmanageable
LHK (PSG),2011U.S. Dist.LEXIS
173. BoyRacerv. Does 1-52,No.C 11-02834
BMGMusicv.Does1-203,No.04-650,
86746,at*9-10(N.D.Cal.Aug.5, 2011)(quoting
2004U.S.Dist.LEXIS8457,at*4(E.D.Pa.Apr.2,2004)).
at *2
174. HardDrive
, 809F. Supp.2d at 1164;On theCheap
, 2011WL 4018258,
HardDrive
, 809F.Supp.2dat1164).
(quoting
at*3.
175. OntheCheap
, 2011WL4018258,
176. 542F.Supp.2d153,161(D. Mass.2008).
forCopyright
177. London-Sire
, 542F. Supp.2d at 157-58;Complaint
Infringement,
London-Sire
Inc.v.Doe 1,542F. Supp.2d 153(D. Mass.2008)(No.04cvl2434Records,
NG).
at*2.
178. OntheCheap
, 2011WL4018258,
179. Temple,
supranote1.
180. SeeHamilton,
supranote63.

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thatthisNote proposesaccord due respect


The minimumrequirements
to the validityof the plaintiffs'underlyingsubstantiveclaims while at the
defendants
withstrongproceduraldefensesfrombeing
same timeprotecting
corneredintosettlement.
Moreover,by decreasingtherecoverypotentialof
the mass lawsuit,the minimumrequirementsshould weed out predatory
the minimumrequirements
would
fromthe process. Importantly,
plaintiffs
their
lawsuits
be
on
mandate
that
no
undue
burden
theyonly
plaintiffs:
place
no
more
of
the
than
would
sound.
This
plaintiffs
they
requires
procedurally
be requiredto showifthesemass lawsuitswentto trial.
Nor would the minimumrequirementsrenderlawsuits against Bitmechanism.181
Torrentfile sharersineffectiveas a copyrightenforcement
to
abide
some
holders
have
Indeed,
by similar
copyright
voluntarily
opted
find
to
for
and
still
the
lawsuits
be
an
effective
tool
copyright
requirements
enforcement.182
While thelawsuitsmightbe renderedless lucrativeas a resultof theminimumrequirements,
theystillcould be valuableas a deterrent
would
stillachieve a professedaim of the
to infringement.183
Certainlythey
"
holder:
...
to stop themfrom'stealingour
'scarfing]people'
copyright
clients'content.'"184

would
As forthe JohnDoes, the protectionthe minimumrequirements
would
filter
out
those
defendaffordis substantial.Since the requirements
ants with strongproceduraldefenses,any defendantswhose identitiesare
discovered should be those defendantswho realisticallywould stand a
chance of suffering
an adverserulingat trial.The minimumrequirements
should also filterout a substantialnumberof the wrongfullyaccused. At
least forthosewrongfully
accused defendantswho do wish to defendthemassuresthattheywill notsuffer
selves,thepersonaljurisdictionrequirement
theprejudiceof havingto do so in a farawayforum.
the assertionthatjoinder could benefitthe defendants185
Furthermore,
will
actuallybegins to ringtrue.First,because the minimumrequirements
likelykeep thenumberofjoined defendantslow,theyshouldhelp solve the
case manageabilityissues presentedby mass joinder.186
More importantly,
because the minimumrequirementsfilterout defendantswho will raise
oneattorney
forcopyright
whoasserts
thatwhenmasslaw181. See id.(citing
holders
incombating
canbeeffective
suitsare"doneright"
they
piracy).
a number
vol182. Seeid.(noting
that
ofcopyright
adultstudios
attorneys
representing
inthejurisdiction
orsmallgroups
where
reside).
untarily
opttosueonlyindividuals
they
183. SeeDavidMcGuire,
KidsPirate
MusicFreely
, Wash.Post,May18,2004,
Report:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A37231-2004Mayl8.html
(notingthatthe
number
ofpeopledownloading
music
after
theRIAAfirst
started
warndropped
significantly
that
couldbesuedforillegally
music).
ingpeople
they
sharing
184. Johnson,
supranote149.
185. SeeLondon-Sire
Inc.v.Doe 1,542F.Supp.2d 153,161(D. Mass.2008)
Records,
that
benefits
defendants
because
itallowsthem
toseethedefenses
raisedby
(noting
joinder
inthelawsuit).
theother
defendants
186. See,e.g.,On theCheap,LLC v. Does 1-5011,No. C10-4472BZ, 2011WL
at*2(N.D.Cal.Sept.6,2011)(citing
the"logistical"
thatwouldbecre4018258,
nightmare
atedbyhundreds
ofdefendants
different
motions).
filing
many

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308

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[Vol.111:283

proceduraldefenses,thereis a fargreaterlikelihoodthattheremainingcases
will involve "similar,even virtuallyidentical,issues of law and fact."187
is largelylimitedto thosecontestingthe
Whenthepool ofjoined defendants
actionon its substantivemerits,theymightrealisticallyfindit beneficialto
proceedas a groupratherthanas individuals.188
Some may arguethatthe Doe defendantsare not entitledto protection
because theywillinglyassumed the riskof adversefinancialconsequences
True as thismay be in
activitieson the internet.
by engagingin infringing
the abstract,it does notjustifythe proceduralshortcutstakenby theplaintiffsin thesecases. "[F]iling one mass actionin orderto identifyhundreds
of [D]oe defendantsthroughpre-servicediscoveryand facilitatemass setMoreover,the
tlement,is notwhatthejoinderruleswere establishedfor."189
Due Process Clause assures the JohnDoes thattheywill not be called to
answerfortheirconductin "a forumwithwhich[theyhave] establishedno
"190
meaningful'contact,ties, or relations.' These are protectionsthatany
defendantis entitledto, regardlessof theirculpability.Withoutsuch protecfromtheJohnDoes is
tions,"thepotentialforcoercingunjustsettlements"
unacceptablyhigh.191
stifle
Of course,theplaintiffs
mayarguethattheminimumrequirements
in
manner."192
a
cost-effective
theirabilityto "protecttheircopyrights
Yet,it
rules
should
to
that
adherence
cannot seriouslybe contended
procedural
On the contrary,
take a backseatto cost-effective
copyrightenforcement.193
in maintaining
interest
enforcingproceduralrules "trumps[theplaintiffs']
low litigationcosts."194Plaintiffshave everyrightto enforcetheircopyrights,but procedurallydeficientmass lawsuits thatleave the implicated
unable to presenttheirdefensesand vulnerableto
defendantseffectively
187. London-Sire
, 542F.Supp.2dat161.
allowthe
defendants
intoonecasewould
that
188. Seeid.(noting
multiple
consolidating
haveraised).
other
defendants
toseethedefenses
defendants
at*6(N.D.Cal.Feb.
189. 10 Grp.v.Does1-435,No.C 10-04382
SI,2011WL445043,
3,2011).
Int'lShoe
471U.S.462,471-72(1985)(quoting
190. Burger
KingCorp.v.Rudzewicz,
326U.S.310,319(1945)).
Co.v.Washington,
at*5 (S.D.Tex.
Inc.v.John
Does1-41,No.V-l1-46,2012WL773683,
191. K-Beech,
Mar.8,2012).
192. CalloftheWildMovie,LLC v.Does 1-1062,770F. Supp.2d 332,345(D.D.C.
2011).
toaccept
a plainreluctance
a judicial
at*6(noting
2011WL445043,
193. SeeIO Grp.,
to permit
costsas sufficient
of reducing
tiff's
motive
joinderin lightof other
litigation
2008U.S.
LLC v. Does 1-11,No. 1:07-CV-2828,
Arista
Records,
difficulties);
procedural
entiarecertainly
Plaintiffs
Dist.LEXIS90183,at*17-18(N.D.OhioNov.3,2008)("While
Rulesindoingso."(quoting
must
their
tledtovindicate
Sony
they
playbytheFederal
rights,
v. Does 1-5,No. CV 07-2434SJO(JCx)(C.D. Cal.Aug.29,2007))
BMGMusicEntm't
179F.R.D.75,
Co.ofW.Conn.v.Antidormi,
Tele-Media
marks
omitted));
(internal
quotation
considerations
thebalanceofpragmatic
76 (D. Conn.1998)("Though
point
mayarguably
inthe
testofRule20stands
... thesametransaction
ofdefendants]
toward
permitting
[joinder
way.").
at*5.
194. K-Beech
, 2012WL773683,

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2012]

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309

behaviorby theplaintiffs
and theirattorneys
are simplythewrong
predatory
toolsforenforcement.195
Conclusion
forcopyright
holders,theexplosionof onlinepiracyover
Unfortunately
thepast decade has made effective
enforcement
copyright
increasinglydifficult. However,the answerto this problemdoes not lie in mass copyright
lawsuitsthatstretchpermissivejoinderbeyondits recognizainfringement
ble scope and ignoredue process limitationson personaljurisdiction.Yet,
luredby theprospectof extracting
tens,hundreds,or even thousandsof potentialsettlements
forthe low cost of a single filingfee, many copyright
holderscontinueto filesuch lawsuits.All theyneed to access a multitudeof
helpless defendantswillingto settlewithouta fightis a judge willingto
grantexpediteddiscovery.Often,thatrequestis grantedby a judge who is
eitherunawareof or indifferent
to the factthatexpediteddiscoveryis the
last,notthefirst,step in the action.This Note arguesthatjudges mustrecognize the factthattheselawsuitscould neverprevailin theircurrentform
at trialbecause of theirproceduraldefects.Since thesesuitswill nevergo to
trial,expediteddiscoveryis the properjunctureat whichto enforcefederal
proceduralrules.This Note also advocatesapplyingminimumrequirements
thatmass lawsuitsshouldadhereto in orderto protectdefendantswithwellgroundedproceduraldefenses.While the minimumrequirements
certainly
decrease thepotentialprofitability
of these lawsuits,profitability
cannotbe
achievedat theexpenseof establishedproceduralrules.Should adherenceto
proceduralrules make copyrightenforcement
throughmass litigationtoo
costlyto be effective,
perhapstheineluctableconclusionis thatmass litigationis notthepropervehicleforcopyright
enforcement.

195. SeeBridy
thesignificant
duepro, supranote31,at724("Considering
procedural
cessandadministration
ofjustice
issuesassociated
with
massJohn
Doelitigation,
itishardto
a compelling
infavor
ofadjudicating
online
thisway.").
imagine
argument
copyright
disputes

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