ORDER ON MOTIONS TO QUASH
GERTNER, District Judge.
TABLE OF CONTENTS I. BACKGROUND....................................................................158 A. Facts.....................................................................158 B. Procedural History........................................................161 II. LEGAL STANDARDS...............................................................163 III. THE DEFENDANTS' ANONYMITY IS ENTITLED TO SOME FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTION.........................................................163 IV. APPLICATION OF THE BALANCING TEST.............................................164 A. Factor One: Prima Facie Claim of Actionable Harm..........................164 1. Whether the Plaintiffs Have Asserted a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted.......................................................165 a. Whether the Copyright Holder's Right Extends Only to Actual Distributions....................................................166 b. Whether the Distribution Right Is Limited to Physical, Tangible Objects..........................................................169 (1) Electronic Files Are Material Objects.........................170 (2) The Transmission of an Electronic File Constitutes a "Distribution" Within the Meaning of § 106(3) .........172 2. Whether the Plaintiffs Have Adduced Prima Facie Evidence of Infringement.........................................................175 3. Whether the Plaintiffs Have Tied Their Allegations and Evidence to Specific Acts of Infringement............................... 177 B. Factors Two, Three, and Four: Need and Narrow Tailoring...................177 1. Specificity of the Discovery Request..................................177 2. Absence of Alternative Means to Obtain Information....................179 3. Central Need to Litigation............................................179 C. Factor Five: The Defendants' Expectations of Privacy......................179 D. Required Modifications to the Subpoenas...................................180 V. THE MOTION TO QUASH FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION.........................180 VI. CONCLUSION....................................................................181
This case consists of numerous actions consolidated under London-Sire Records, Inc. v. Does 1-4, Civil Action No. 04-cv-12434. The plaintiffs include several of the country's largest record companies. The defendants,
In these cases, the plaintiffs have been able to infer some infringing file-sharing activity from their investigations, but have not been able to discover the file-sharer's identity. They have an Internet Protocol
After briefing, argument, and amicus participation, the Court concludes that it has insufficient information to allow the plaintiffs to take expedited discovery under these circumstances. First, the movants are entitled to some First Amendment protection of their anonymity — albeit limited. Second, the defendants may have expectations of privacy with regard to their identity, but that depends on the terms of the internet service agreement they have with Boston University, which has not been provided to the Court. Third, the movants have raised an issue of fact with respect to the number of identities disclosed to the plaintiffs by the expedited discovery. As it currently exists, the plaintiffs' subpoena may invade the anonymity of many non-infringing internet users — anonymity that deserves protection by the Court. Under these circumstances, the best solution is in camera review of the terms of service agreement and the ISP's list of individuals who match the information supplied by the plaintiffs.
The Court will therefore
In each of these cases, the facts are substantially identical. Since the defendants' motions are effectively motions to dismiss — there is almost no evidence in the case, and the movants argue, among other things, that the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted — the Court will apply that standard of review to the pleadings. The plaintiffs' pleadings are taken as true, and the Court will draw all reasonable inferences in their favor. See, e.g., Rivera v. Rhode Island, 402 F.3d 27, 33 (1st Cir. 2005) (stating standard for motion to dismiss). To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs' pleaded facts must "possess enough heft to sho[w] that [they are] entitled to relief." Clark v. Boscher, 514 F.3d 107, 112 (1st Cir.2008) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1959, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)) (first alteration in Twombly).
Peer-to-peer software primarily exists to create decentralized networks of individual computer users. The software allows the users to communicate directly with one another, rather than routing their transmissions through a central server — thus the term "peer-to-peer" architecture, as opposed to "client-server." See, e.g., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913, 919-920 & n. 1, 125 S.Ct. 2764, 162 L.Ed.2d 781 (2005). Each type of architecture has distinct advantages and disadvantages, most of which are not relevant to this case.
What is relevant is that users in a peerto-peer network can remain relatively anonymous or pseudonymous. Because communications between two computers on a peer-to-peer network can take place directly, without passing through a central network server,
Peer-to-peer users can also transfer files over the network. Many such files are entirely legitimate. See Grokster, 545 U.S. at 920, 125 S.Ct. 2764. However, other files transferred are electronic versions of copyrighted music or video files. Notably, because the files on each user's computer are digital, another computer can make a precise copy of them with no attendant loss in quality. See Linares Decl. at 3-4, Ex. A to PI. Mot. Leave to Take Immediate Discovery (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document # 5).
In this case, the plaintiffs allege that each of the defendants has taken part in just such a file transfer. To discover potentially infringing transfers, the plaintiffs (acting through their trade association, the Recording Industry Association of America, or "RIAA") have retained a third-party investigator, MediaSentry, Inc.
Id. at 6.
At this point, assuming the plaintiffs wish to sue, they cannot do so; they have only the IP number of the sending computer. An IP number is sometimes called an IP address because it is just that: an address. It serves as a locator declaring the place of a particular piece of electronic equipment so that electronic data may be sent to it, and is usually represented as a series of four numbers between 0 and 255. See, e.g., America Online v. Huang, 106 F.Supp.2d 848, 851 (E.D.Va.2000). (For example, 220.127.116.11 is one of the IP addresses allegedly used by a defendant in this case. See Doe List, Ex. A to Compl. (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document # 1).)
But relatively few personal computer users have a specific, set IP address, called a "static" address. Instead, many use their computers to connect to a network provided by their ISP, which uses a certain range of IP addresses — say, all of the numbers between 168.122.1.x to 168.122.100.x. The ISP assigns an address within its range to the user's computer for the user's session, allocating the numbers within its range on an as-needed basis. This process is known as "dynamic" addressing. See, e.g., H. Brian Holland, Tempest in a Teapot or Tidal Wave? Cybersquatting Rights & Remedies Run Amok, 10 J. Tech. L. & Pol'y 301, 305 & nn. 13-18 (2005). This makes the plaintiffs' task of discovering the identity of a particular infringer more difficult. The IP address that they have noted as belonging to a particular user's computer may be assigned to a different user's computer in short order. See id.
However, the plaintiffs are not without leads. The range in which the IP address is assigned may reveal the user's ISP. See Linares Decl. at 7, Ex. A to PI. Mot. Leave to Take Immediate Discovery (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document # 5); see also, e.g., Network-Tools.com, http://network-tools. com/default.asp (last visited Mar. 31, 2008) (providing such a service). And ISPs generally keep logs of which IP address is assigned to which user — although it may purge those logs after a certain period of time, which was one of the key facts relied
The plaintiff record companies have brought approximately forty "John Doe" cases in this Court, many-perhaps mostdesignating more than one defendant, grouped by ISP.
Simultaneous with the grant of expedited discovery, the Court has consolidated each "John Doe" case with the first, London-Sire, No. 04-cv-12434. The cases involve similar, even virtually identical, issues of law and fact: the alleged use of peer-to-peer software to share copyrighted sound recordings and the discovery of defendants' identities through the use of a Rule 45 subpoena to their internet service provider. Consolidating the cases ensures administrative efficiency for the Court, the plaintiffs, and the ISP, and allows the defendants to see the defenses, if any, that other John Does have raised.
In view of the $750 statutory minimum damages per song, 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2), most defendants choose to settle. The approximate settlement range appears to be $3,000 to $6,000 per defendant, a considerable amount of money, particularly to the college students who have been caught in the plaintiffs' nets.
Only three of the defendants have elected to fight the subpoena. Two are Doe defendants from the case originally titled Arista Records LLC v. Does 1-21, No. 07cv-10834 (consolidated on May 8, 2007). In that case, the plaintiffs sought discovery from Boston University as the defendants' ISP, and the two Does
The third defendant to move to quash the subpoena is Doe no. 12 from Warner Brothers Records, Inc. v. Does 1-17, No. 07-cv-10924 (consolidated on May 18, 2007). The Internet Service Provider at issue is the University of Massachusetts. Doe no. 12 argues that she is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts. See Mot. Quash (document # 113).
The Court held a hearing on the Motions to Quash on January 28, 2008. Shortly thereafter, the Court granted the Electronic Frontier Foundation ("EFF") leave to file an amicus brief supporting the Motion to Quash. See Electronic Order (Feb. 6, 2008). Its brief principally treats the First Amendment implications of the subpoena
The Court will examine first the motions of the two Does in the Boston University case, which argue that the subpoena ought to be denied on substantive grounds. It will then turn to the University of Massachusetts Doe's argument that the subpoena should be quashed for lack of personal jurisdiction.
This case is still at a preliminary stage: The plaintiffs seek to learn the identities of the defendants so that, the issue may be properly joined on the merits. Under Federal Rule 45, the Court "shall quash or modify the subpoena if it... requires disclosure of privileged or other protected matter and no exception or' waiver applies." Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(c)(3)(A)(iii). The substantive inquiry is similar to the one necessary for issuing a protective order. See Micro Motion, Inc. v. Kane Steel Co., 894 F.2d 1318, 1322-23 (Fed.Cir.1990). The party requesting that the subpoena be quashed must show good cause for protection by specifically demonstrating that disclosure will cause a clearly defined and serious harm. See Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc., 805 F.2d 1, 7-8 (1st Cir. 1986); Glenmede Trust Co. v. Thompson, 56 F.3d 476, 483 (3d Cir.1995). The Court balances the harm of disclosure against the harm to the other party of restricting discovery.
The Court must therefore first consider whether the defendants' anonymity is entitled to privilege or other protection. If so, it will turn to the balancing test necessary under Rule 45(c)(3).
THE DEFENDANTS' ANONYMITY IS ENTITLED TO SOME FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTION
The motion to quash raises two First Amendment issues-the right to anonymous speech and the right to whatever creative activity is involved in the defendants' acts. While the Court recognizes some limited First Amendment protection here, that protection only goes so far as to subject the plaintiffs' subpoenas to somewhat heightened scrutiny. Other courts have
As the Supreme Court has repeatedly held, the First Amendment protects anonymous speech. The right to anonymity is an important foundation of the right to speak freely. Indeed, "[a]nonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. It ... exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation — and their ideas from suppression — at the hand of an intolerant society." Mclntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm'n, 514 U.S. 334, 357, 115 S.Ct. 1511, 131 L.Ed.2d 426 (1995). See also NAACP v. Alabama ex rel. Patterson, 357 U.S. 449, 460-62, 78 S.Ct. 1163, 2 L.Ed.2d 1488 (1958) (discussing generally the importance of anonymity). Still, the anonymous activity that is being protected must be "speech."
Copyright infringement, per se, is clearly not speech entitled to First Amendment protection. See Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters., 471 U.S. 539, 555-57, 560, 105 S.Ct. 2218, 85 L.Ed.2d 588 (1985) (discussing the First Amendment and copyright, and examining whether fair use doctrine applied to alleged act of copyright infringement). But there are some creative aspects of downloading music or making it available to others to copy: the value judgment of what is worthy of being copied; the association of one recording with another by placing them together in the same library; the self-expressive act of identification with a particular recording; the affirmation of joining others listening to the same recording or expressing the same idea. See Rebecca Tushnet, Copy This Essay: How Fair Use Doctrine Harms Free Speech and How Copying Serves It, 114 Yale L.J. 535, 545-47, 562-81 (2004); Jack M. Balkin, Digital Speech and Democratic Culture: A Theory of Freedom of Expression for the Information Society, 79 N.Y.U. L.Rev. 1, 45-46 (2004); cf. Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 547, 105 S.Ct. 2218 (noting that compilation of pure fact "entails originality" in selection and ordering of the facts). Thus, while the aspect of a file-sharer's act that is infringing is not entitled to First Amendment protection, other aspects of it are. Cf, e.g., Schad v. Mount Ephraim, 452 U.S. 61, 66, 101 S.Ct. 2176, 68 L.Ed.2d 671 (1981) ("[N]ude dancing is not without its First Amendment protections from official regulation."); Eugene Volokh, Crime-Facilitating Speech, 57 Stan. L.Rev. 1095 (2005) (arguing that crime-facilitating speech has "some First Amendment value").
Nevertheless, the fact that there is First Amendment value associated with sharing music over a peer-to-peer network does not insulate the defendants from liability. Rather, the minimal First Amendment protection their activity garners
IV. APPLICATION OF THE BALANCING TEST
As to how to balance the harms, the Court finds persuasive the approach of the Southern District of New York in Sony Music, 326 F.Supp.2d 556. In that case, the court reviewed the leading cases on subpoenas seeking disclosure of defendants' identities from their ISP. It isolated five important factors:
Id. at 564-65 (citations omitted).
The Court considers each factor in turn.
Factor One: Prima Facie Claim of Actionable Harm
This factor has three parts. First, the plaintiffs must assert an "actionable harm," a claim upon which relief can be granted. Second, the claim must be supported by prima facie evidence. That standard does not require the plaintiffs to prove their claim. They need only proffer sufficient evidence that, if credited, would support findings in their favor on all facts essential to their claim. See Adelson v. Hananel, 510 F.3d 43, 48 (1st Cir.2007) (discussing prima facie standard for personal jurisdiction). Finally, both the claim and the prima facie evidence supporting it must be "concrete." That is, they must be
The movants and the EFF argue that the plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden under each part of the test. See Mot. Quash at 3-7 (document # 104); Mot. Quash at 4-10 (document # 115); EFF Br. at 9-24 (document # 152). Their arguments involve important and difficult questions of copyright law. Ultimately, however, the Court finds that the plaintiffs have satisfied this factor. Considering as true the facts they have pleaded, and drawing all reasonable inferences in their favor, the plaintiffs have made a concrete showing of a prima facie case of an actionable harm.
Whether the Plaintiffs Have Asserted a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted
A claim for copyright infringement has two elements. First, the plaintiffs must demonstrate that they hold a valid copyright (an issue the defendants do not contest.) Second, the plaintiff must show that the defendant violated of one of the exclusive rights held by a copyright owner. See T-Peg, Inc. v. Vermont Timber Works, Inc., 459 F.3d 97, 108 (1st Cir.2006); see also Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 360-61, 111 S.Ct. 1282, 113 L.Ed.2d 358 (1991); 17 U.S.C. § 501(a). The plaintiffs claim that "each [defendant, without the permission or consent of [p]laintiffs, has ... downloaded] or distribut[ed] to the public" music files to which the plaintiff holds the copyright. Compl. at 5 (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document #1). Two rights reserved to the copyright holder are at issue in this case: the right "to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords," 17 U.S.C. § 106(1), and the right "to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending," id. § 106(3).
The movants and the amicus present two broad arguments, each of which requires the Court to consider the scope of a copyright holder's exclusive rights under the statutes quoted above. First, they contend that the copyright laws require an actual dissemination of copyrighted material; merely making copyrighted material available for another person to copy, they argue, is only an attempt at infringement — which is not actionable. Mem. Supp. Mot. Quash at 4-6 (document # 104); Mot. Quash at 7 (document # 115); EFF Br. at 10-15 (document # 152). Second, they contend that the scope of the rights given to copyright owners by § 106 is limited by the definition of "phonorecords" as "material objects" in 17 U.S.C. § 101.
Whether the Copyright Holder's Right Extends Only to Actual Distributions
The first question the Court must address is whether the distribution right under 17 U.S.C. § 106(3) requires an actual dissemination to constitute an infringement.
The plaintiffs suggest two reasons why an actual distribution might not be required. First, the statute reserves to the copyright owner the right "to do and to authorize ... [the distribution of] copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public." § 106(3) (emphasis added). The language appears to grant two distinct rights: "doing" and "authorizing" a distribution. Making the copyrighted material available over the internet might constitute an actionable "authorization" of a distribution. Second, if mere authorization is not enough, the plaintiffs argue that in appropriate circumstances — including these — "making available" copyrighted material is sufficient to constitute an act of actual distribution. Neither argument has merit.
The First Circuit has squarely considered and rejected the proposition that copyright liability arises where the defendant authorized an infringement, but no actual infringement occurred. See Venegas-Hernandez v. Ass'n De Compositores & Editores de Musica Latinoamericana, 424 F.3d 50, 57-58 (1st Cir.2005). It noted that Congress' intent in adding "authorize" to the statute was to "avoid any questions as to the liability of contributory infringers." Id. at 58 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting H.R. Rep. 94-1476 ("House Report") at 52 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5659, 5674). Authorization is sufficient to give rise to liability, but only if an infringing act occurs after the authorization. See id. at 59; see also Latin Am. Music Co. v. The Archdiocese of San Juan of the Roman Catholic & Apostolic Church, 499 F.3d 32, 46 (1st Cir.2007) (citing and applying Venegas-Hernandez).
Thus, to constitute a violation of the distribution right under § 106(3), the defendants' actions must do more than "authorize" a distribution; they must actually "do" it. The Court therefore moves to
To suggest that "making available" may be enough, the plaintiffs rely primarily on the Fourth Circuit's decision in Hotaling.
Id.; see also id. at 204.
The plaintiffs contend that this case is analogous to Hotaling,
The plaintiffs encourage the Court to adopt a much more capacious definition of "distribution." They argue that the Supreme Court has held that the "terms `distribution' and `publication' ... [are] synonymous in the Copyright Act." Pls.' Resp. Opp. Amicus Curiae Br. at 2-3 (document # 157) (citing Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 552, 105 S.Ct. 2218).
While some lower courts have accepted the equation of publication and distribution, see Greubel, 453 F.Supp.2d at 969; In re Napster, 377 F.Supp.2d at 803, the plaintiffs' argument mischaracterizes the Supreme Court's decision in Harper & Row. The Supreme Court stated only that § 106(3) "recognized for the first time a distinct statutory right of first publication," and quoted the legislative history as establishing that § 106(3) gives a copyright holder "the right to control the first public distribution of an authorized copy... of his work." Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 552, 105 S.Ct. 2218 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting House Report at 62, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5675) (alteration in Harper & Row). That is a far cry from squarely holding that publication and distribution are congruent.
To the contrary, even a cursory examination of the statute suggests that the terms are not synonymous. "Distribution" is undefined in the copyright statutes. "Publication," however, is defined, and incorporates "distribution" as part of its definition:
17 U.S.C. § 101. By the plain meaning of the statute, all "distributions ... to the public" are publications. But not all publications are distributions to the public — the statute explicitly creates an additional category of publications that are not themselves distributions. For example, suppose an author has a copy of her (as yet unpublished) novel. If she sells that copy to a member of the public, it constitutes both distribution and publication. If she merely offers to sell it to the same member of the public, that is neither a distribution nor a publication. And if the author offers to sell the manuscript to a publishing house "for purposes of further distribution," but does not actually do so, that is a publication but not a distribution.
Plainly, "publication" and "distribution" are not identical. And Congress' decision to use the latter term when defining the copyright holder's rights in 17 U.S.C. § 106(3) must be given consequence. In this context, that means that the defendants cannot be liable for violating the plaintiffs' distribution right unless a "distribution" actually occurred.
But that does not mean that the plaintiffs' pleadings and evidence are insufficient. The Court can draw from the Complaint and the current record a reasonable inference in the plaintiffs' favor — that where the defendant has completed all the necessary steps for a public distribution, a reasonable fact-finder may infer that the distribution actually took place. As in Hotaling, the defendants have completed the necessary steps for distribution, albeit electronic: Per the plaintiffs' pleadings, each individual Doe defendant connected to the peer-to-peer network in such a way as to allow the public to make copies of the plaintiffs' copyrighted recordings. See Compl. at 5 (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document #1). Through their investigator, the plaintiffs have produced evidence that the files were, in fact, available for download. They have also alleged that sound recordings are illegally copied on a large scale, supporting the inference that the defendants participated in the peer-topeer network with the intent that other users could download from the defendants copies of the plaintiffs' copyrighted material. See Linares Decl. at 3-4, Ex. A to PI. Mot. Leave to Take Immediate Discovery (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document #5). At least at this stage of the proceedings, that is enough. The plaintiffs have pled an actual distribution and provided some concrete evidence to support their allegation.
Whether the Distribution Right Is Limited to Physical, Tangible Objects
Next, the movants and the EFF contend that the distribution right under 17 U.S.C. § 106(3) is limited to physical, tangible objects. By its terms, the distribution right only extends to distributions of "phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending." In turn, 17 U.S.C. § 101 defined "phonorecords" as "material objects in which sounds... are fixed." The movants and the EFF focus on the phrase "material object," as well as the meaning of "sale or other transfer," and conclude that purely electronic file sharing does not fall within the scope of the right. If their argument is accepted, it would mean that the plaintiffs' Complaint is legally insufficient to allege a violation of the distribution right protected by§ 106(3).
The movants' argument is sweeping, carrying substantial implications for a great deal of internet commerce — any involving computer-to-computer electronic transfers of information. Indeed, this case is an exemplar. The plaintiffs have not
As noted above, 17 U.S.C. § 106(3) applies to the distribution of "phonorecords." And "phonorecords" are defined in full as follows:
17 U.S.C. § 101. The movants and the EFF contend that the electronic distribution, if it occurred, did not involve the "distribution" of a material object "by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending," as §§ 106(3) and 101 require. The argument has two closely related prongs-first, that no material object actually changed hands, and second, that even if it did, it was not through one of the methods of transfer enumerated in the statute.
Each of those arguments relies on an overly literal definition of "material object," and one that ignores the phrase's purpose in the copyright statutes. Congress intended for the copyright owner to be able to control the public distribution of items that can reproduce the artist's sound recording. It makes no difference that the distribution occurs electronically, or that the items are electronic sequences of data rather than physical objects.
Before squarely addressing the parties' arguments, however, the Court briefly revisits an important foundational issue — whether the electronic files at issue here can constitute "material objects" within the meaning of the copyright statutes. Doing so will help the Court explain the scope of the distribution right and frame the application of the Copyright Act to an electronic world.
Electronic Files Are Material Objects
Understanding Congress' use of "material object" requires returning to a fundamental principle of the Copyright Act of 1976, Pub.L. No. 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541 (codified as amended in 17 U.S.C). Congress drew "a fundamental distinction between the`original work' which is the product of`authorship' and the multitude of material objects in which it can be embodied. Thus, in the sense of the [Copyright Act], a`book' is not a work of authorship, but is a particular kind of`copy.'" House Report at 53, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5666.
The Copyright Act thus does not use materiality in its most obvious sense — to mean a tangible object with a certain heft, like a book or compact disc. Rather,
This analysis is borne out in other aspects of the Copyright Act — for example, the Act's abrogation of a common-law presumption regarding the sale of copyrights. At common-law, if an author sold her manuscript, the sale included the author's copyrights in the original work unless the sale agreement specifically excepted them. See, e.g., Yardley v. Houghton Mifflin Co., 108 F.2d 28, 30-31 (2d Cir.1939); Pushman v. New York Graphic Soc'y, Inc., 287 N.Y. 302, 306-07, 39 N.E.2d 249 (1942). Congress specifically abolished that presumption by distinguishing between the abstract, original work on the one hand, which is the source of the copyrights, and its material incarnation on the other, which is protected by the copyrights. See 17 U.S.C. § 202; House Report at 53, 123, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5666, 5739-40. Because the two are different, the author can freely sell a copy without disturbing the copyrights.
Thus, any object in which a sound recording can be fixed is a "material object." That includes the electronic files at issue here. When a user on a peer-to-peer network downloads a song from another user, he receives into his computer a digital sequence representing the sound recording. That sequence is magnetically encoded on a segment of his hard disk (or likewise written on other media.) With the right hardware and software, the downloader can use the magnetic sequence to reproduce the sound recording. The electronic file (or, perhaps more accurately, the appropriate segment of the hard disk) is therefore a "phonorecord" within the meaning of the statute. See § 101 (defining "fixed" and "phonorecords"); Matthew Bender & Co., 158 F.3d at 703-04. See also New York Times Co. v. Tasini 533 U.S. 483, 490-91, 121 S.Ct. 2381, 150 L.Ed.2d 500 (2001) (appearing to assume that electronic-only distributions constitute material objects); Stenograph LLC v. Bossard Assocs., Inc., 144 F.3d 96, 100 (D.C.Cir.1998) (holding that installation
With that background, the Court turns to the movants' and the EFF's arguments.
The Transmission of an Electronic File Constitutes a "Distribution" Within the Meaning of § 106(3)
The movants and the EFF present two reasons why the Court should decline to find that purely electronic transmissions are a violation of the distribution right. First, they note that the distribution right is limited to "phonorecords of the copyrighted work," 17 U.S.C. § 106(3), and that part of the definition of "phonorecords" is that they are "material objects," id. § 101. They focus on the phrase "material objects" to suggest that a copyright owner's distribution right only extends to "tangible" objects. See EFF Br. at 15-16. Because there was no exchange of tangible objects in this case — no "hand-to-hand" exchange of physical things — they argue that the plaintiffs' distribution right was not infringed by the defendants' actions.
The movants' second argument focuses on a different phrase in § 106(3): "distribution" is limited to exchanges "by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending." They note, correctly, that an electronic download does not divest the sending computer of its file, and therefore does not implicate any ownership rights over the sound file held by the transferor. Therefore, they conclude, an electronic file does not fit within the defined limits of the distribution right.
The movants' two arguments appear to be analytically distinct, but in fact each is the obverse of the other: Any time the transfer of copyrighted material takes place electronically, both contentions at least potentially come into play. Electronic transfers generally involve the reading of data at point A and the replication of that data at point B. Whenever that is true, one person might be stationed at point A and another at point B, obviating the need for a "hand-to-hand" transfer. Similarly, because the data at point A is not necessarily destroyed by the process of reading it, the person at point A might retain ownership over the original, forestalling the need for a "sale or other transfer of ownership," as stated in § 106(3).
Clearly, that description accurately characterizes electronic file transfers. The internet makes it possible for a sending computer in Boston and a downloader in California to communicate quickly and easily; the physical distance between the two, as well as the purely electronic nature of the transfer, makes the movants' argument attractive. But the "point A-to-point B" characterization is no less apt for an older technology, such as a fax transfer over a phone line. And it also applies to cases in which point A and point B are very close together — even in the same room.
The first point requires that the Court closely examine the scope of the distribution right under § 106(3). The statute provides copyright owners with the exclusive right "to distribute ... phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending." 17 U.S.C. § 106(3). In turn, phonorecords are defined in part as "material objects in which sounds ... are fixed by any method." Id. § 101. And as discussed above, in the sense of the Copyright Act, "material objects" should not be understood as separating tangible copies from non-tangible copies. Rather, it separates a copy from the abstract original work and from a performance of the work. See supra Section IV.A.l.b.(1).
Read contextually, it is clear that this right was intended to allow the author to control the rate and terms at which copies or phonorecords of the work become available to the public. In that sense, it is closely related to the reproduction right under § 106(1), but it is not the same. As Congress noted, "a printer [who] reproduces copies without selling them [and] a retailer [who] sells copies without having anything to do with their reproduction" invade different rights. House Report at 61, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5675. Under § 106(3),
House Report at 62, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5675-76. Clearly, § 106(3) addresses concerns for the market for copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, and does so more explicitly and directly than the other provisions of § 106.
An electronic file transfer is plainly within the sort of transaction that § 106(3) was intended to reach. Indeed, electronic transfers comprise a growing part of the legitimate market for copyrighted sound recordings. See, e.g., Verne Kopytoff &
For similar reasons, the Court concludes that an electronic file transfer can constitute a "transfer of ownership" as that term is used in § 106(3). As noted above, Congress wrote § 106(3) to reach the "unauthorized public distribution of copies or phonorecords that were unlawfully made." House Report at 62, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5676. That certainly includes situations where, as here, an "original copy" is read at point A and duplicated elsewhere at point B.
This conclusion is supported by a comparison to the "first sale" doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 109. The "first sale" doctrine provides that once an author has released an authorized copy or phonorecord of her work, she has relinquished all control over that particular copy or phonorecord. See id. § 109(a); House Report at 79-80, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5693-94. The person who bought the copy — the "secondary" purchaser — may sell it to whomever she pleases, and at the terms she directs. The market implications are clear. The author controls the volume of copies entering the market, but once there, he has no right to control their secondary and successive redistribution. To be sure, the author retains a certain degree of control over the secondary sale, at least to the extent that he can control that redistributions through the terms in the original sales contract. But he must bring a contract suit, not an infringement action. See id. at 79, reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 5693. See also, e.g., Am. Int'l Pictures, Inc. v. Foreman, 576 F.2d 661, 664 (5th Cir.1978) (holding that where copyrighted material is resold subject to restrictions, and the secondary buyer violates those restrictions, no copyright infringement action lies). More often and more practically, however, the author will simply price the new copies or phonorecords to reflect the work's value in a secondary market. See, e.g., Vincent v. City Colleges of Chicago, 485 F.3d 919 (7th Cir.2007) (citing Stanley M. Besen & Sheila N. Kirby, Private Copying, Appropriability & Optimal, Copyright Royalties, 32 J.L. & Econ. 255 (1989)).
Conversely, where ownership is created through an illegal copy, the first
Whether the Plaintiffs Have Adduced Prima Facie Evidence of Infringement
The second sub-element of the Sony Music test's first factor asks whether the plaintiffs have presented prima facie evidence of infringement. See 326 F.Supp.2d at 564. Just as police cannot invade the privacy of a home without some concrete evidence of wrongdoing inside, plaintiffs should not be able to use the Court to invade others' anonymity on mere allegation. By requiring plaintiffs to make out a prima facie case of infringement, the standard requires plaintiffs to adduce evidence showing that their complaint and subpoena are more than a mere fishing expedition. The plaintiffs need not actually prove their case at this stage; they need only present evidence adequate to allow a reasonable fact-finder to find that each element of their claim is supported. See Adelson, 510 F.3d at 48.' They have done so.
The first element of a copyright infringement suit is a valid copyright. See T-Peg, 459 F.3d at 108. The plaintiffs have asserted, and the defendants have not challenged, that they hold the copyright to each of the sound recordings incorporated into the complaint. See Compl. at 4-5 (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document # 1).
The second element is violation of one of the copyright holder's exclusive rights. See T-Peg, 459 F.3d at 108. The movants and the EFF argue that because the plaintiffs have not demonstrated an actual infringement, they have not asserted an actual violation.
The Court need not now decide the precise nature of the evidence Media-Sentry gathered. While the parties dispute whether an investigator's download can be a perfected infringement, the downloads are also relevant, as described above, for another purpose: demonstrating that such infringement was technically feasible, thereby demonstrating that distributions could occur.
The plaintiffs have alleged that each defendant shared many, many music files — at least 100, and sometimes almost 700. See Ex. A to Compl. (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document # 1) (providing information for each Doe, including number of copyrighted music files shared); Linares Decl. at 4, Ex. A to PI. Mot. Leave to Take Immediate Discovery (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document # 5) (attesting to the veracity of the information contained in Exhibit A to the Complaint).
The plaintiffs have satisfied their burden for a prima facie case. As noted above, merely exposing music files to the internet is not copyright infringement. The defendants may still argue that they did not know that logging onto the peer-topeer network would allow others to access these particular files, or contest the nature of the files, or present affirmative evidence rebutting the statistical inference that downloads occurred. But these are substantive defenses for a later stage. Plaintiffs need not prove knowledge or intent in order to make out a prima facie case of infringement. See Feist, 499 U.S. at 361,
Whether the Plaintiffs Have Tied Their Allegations and Evidence to Specific Acts of Infringement
The third sub-element of the first Sony Music factor is that the allegations be "concrete" — that they be tied to specific acts of infringement. See 326 F.Supp.2d at 564. The movants argue that the plaintiffs have failed to do so. Mot. Quash at 7-10 (document # 115). In considering this question, the Court must keep in mind that transfers on a peer-to-peer network are not observable by outside users. To show infringement,
The plaintiffs have alleged that each of the defendants used the peer-to-peer network to distribute copies of specific sound recordings, detailed in Exhibit A to the Complaint. For instance, Doe no. 21, one of the movants here, is alleged to have distributed the song "Clocks," by the artist Coldplay. Capitol Records holds the copyright to that song. See Ex. A to Compl. (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document # 1). The plaintiffs allege that the downloading creates a precise copy of the song. And Doe no. 21 is alleged to have "continuously used, and [to] continue to use," a peerto-peer network. Compl. at 5 (docket no. 07-cv10834, document # 1). Finally, the fact of MediaSentry's download shows that it was, in fact, possible to download "Clocks" from Doe no. 21's computer as of 6:56 a.m. on January 25, 2007. Thus, the plaintiffs have alleged the specific content at issue; the essential nature of the infringement of that content; a rough time period in which the infringement took place; and that at a certain time, the defendant had taken every step necessary for an infringement of Capitol Records's rights in "Clocks" to occur.
While the plaintiffs must eventually prove that an actual infringement of those rights occurred, they may certainly do so through circumstantial proof and inference. And drawing a reasonable inference in the plaintiffs' favor, one did occur. The plaintiffs' current showing is adequate to satisfy both Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and the more exacting standard of Sony Music — even if they could not directly observe, and thus allege, an infringing act. See, e.g., 5 Patry, Patry on Copyright, §§ 19:3 (listing necessary elements to plead a copyright claim), 19:10 (discussing pleading acts of infringement with specificity).
Factors Two, Three, and Four: Need and Narrow Tailoring
The second, third, and fourth factors in the Sony Music test are designed to ensure that the subpoena is appropriate to the plaintiffs' needs, their allegations, and' the preliminary evidence they have presented. The Court weighs "(2) specificity of the discovery request, (3) the absence of alternative means to obtain the subpoenaed information, [and] (4) a central need for the subpoenaed information to advance the claim." Sony Music, 326 F.Supp.2d at 565. Thus, the second factor prevents the subpoena from being so overbroad that it unreasonably invades the anonymity of users who are not alleged to have infringed copyright. The third cuts against the subpoena if there is another
Specificity of the Discovery Request
The second Sony Music factor examines the breadth of the information sought by the plaintiffs. It has two aspects: first, the breadth of the information the plaintiffs seek, and second, whether the subpoena requires the ISP to reveal identifying information for numerous non-infringing parties, piercing the First Amendment anonymity to which they are entitled.
Under the Court's Order permitting expedited discovery, the plaintiffs are limited to identifying information: "name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and Media Access Control addresses for each defendant." Amended Order re: Expedited Discovery at 1 (May 9, 2007) (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document # 8).
Second, the Court must consider whether the information sought can be reasonably traced to a particular defendant. Generally speaking, according to the plaintiffs, the combination of IP address and date and time of access is sufficient to allow identification of the defendant. See Mem. Supp. Ex Parte Application for Leave To Take Immediate Discovery at 2 (docket no. 07-cv-10834, document #5).
That claim may not always be true. More than one computer may be placed under a single IP number. Thus, it is possible that the ISP may not be able to identify with any specificity which of numerous users is the one in question. See Stengel Decl. at 3 (document # 118). If that is the case, giving the plaintiffs a long list of possible infringers would permit precisely the sort of fishing expedition the Sony Music test is designed to avoid. On the other hand, the ISP may frequently be able to narrow the list to a handful of possible users. In that situation, the plaintiffs should be entitled to use discovery to determine the identity of the alleged infringer. While it still might be possible that an unauthorized user was the actual infringer, see id., that is a matter better left for further discovery and presentation of the plaintiffs' claims on their merits.
The problem calls for a pragmatic solution that carefully respects the anonymity
Absence of Alternative Means to Obtain Information
The third Sony Music factor requires that the plaintiffs have no other, less-intrusive way of obtaining the information they seek. This factor appears to be met in this case. Only the ISP has any record of which IP addresses were assigned to which users. To other entities online, those users would appear only as their IP addresses. The movants have not suggested any other method of obtaining the defendants' information; nor is the Court aware of any.
Central Need to Litigation
Finally, it is evident that the plaintiffs need the information in order to further the litigation. Without names and addresses, the plaintiffs cannot serve process, and the litigation can never progress. Therefore, the plaintiffs do have a central need for this information.
Factor Five: The Defendants' Expectations of Privacy
The final Sony Music factor regards the expectation of privacy held by the Doe defendants, as well as other innocent users who may be dragged into the case (for example, because they shared an IP address with an alleged infringer.) See 326 F.Supp.2d at 565.
As discussed above, see Section III, the alleged infringers have only a thin First Amendment protection. See Harper & Row, 471 U.S. at 559-60, 105 S.Ct. 2218.
The record is unfortunately silent as to Boston University's terms of service agreement, if one exists. That agreement could conceivably make a substantial difference to the expectation of privacy a student has in his or her internet use. The process through which the plaintiffs determine whether a particular user actually used a peer-to-peer network to distribute music files may be much more intrusive than merely obtaining identities. In one case before the Court,
The Court finds that the terms of service arrangement, if one exists, would be extremely helpful in analyzing the privacy interests at issue. As this is an important factor for the Sony Music test, the Court will require that the subpoena served on Boston University be modified to require that it submit to the Court its terms of service arrangement.
Required Modifications to the Subpoenas
For the reasons explained above in Sections IV.B.1 and IV.C, the Court lacks the information to adjudicate whether the plaintiffs have carried their burden in demonstrating a need for expedited discovery under the Sony Music test. Therefore, the Motions to Quash that assert privacy interests (documents ## 104 and 115) are
The Court, with the Sony Music framework thus in place, will consider the plaintiffs' request for expedited discovery as made in their renewed motion.
THE MOTION TO QUASH FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION
In addition to the Motions to Quash filed by the Boston University Does, one other Doe has filed a Motion to Quash. She claims that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over her. She asserts, among other things, that she has never lived in Massachusetts and that "none of [her] visits to the State of Massachusetts had any relationship to the matter for which [she is] being sued, namely [her] alleged use of filesharing systems from [her] home in Maryland." Doe Aff. at 1, Ex. A to Mot. Quash Due to Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (document # 113). The Court has the discretion to permit jurisdictional discovery. See, e.g., United States v. Swiss Am. Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610,
The only information the Court has before it is Jane Doe's affidavit — signed as Jane Doe — attesting that she is not a Massachusetts resident. On the facts of this case, that is an insufficient basis to disallow jurisdictional discovery. Even taking all of the facts in her affidavit as true, it is possible that the Court properly has personal jurisdiction. The Massachusetts long-arm statute permits jurisdiction to the extent allowed by constitutional limits. Daynard v. Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole, P.A., 290 F.3d 42, 52 (1st Cir.2002) (quoting 'Automatic' Sprinkler Corp. of Am. v. Seneca Foods Corp., 361 Mass. 441, 280 N.E.2d 423 (1972)). It is a broad license. For example, Jane Doe might well be subject to jurisdiction if she infringed the plaintiffs' copyrights on a trip into Massachusetts. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3(c)-(d). It would be premature to adjudicate personal jurisdiction on this record.
The Motion to Quash Due to Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (document # 113) is
For the foregoing reasons, the Motions to Quash (document ##103 and 115) are
COURT — DIRECTED NOTICE REGARDING ISSUANCE OF SUBPOENA
A subpoena has been issued directing Boston University, your Internet Service Provider ("ISP"), to disclose your name. The subpoena has been issued because you have been sued in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Boston, Massachusetts, as a "John Doe" by several major record companies. You have been sued for infringing copyrights on the Internet by uploading and/or downloading music. The record companies have identified you only as a "John Doe" and have served a subpoena on your ISP to learn your identity. This notice is intended to inform you of some of your rights and options.
YOUR NAME HAS NOT YET BEEN DISCLOSED. YOUR NAME WILL BE DISCLOSED IN 14 DAYS IF YOU DO NOT CHALLENGE THE SUBPOENA.
Your name has not yet been disclosed. The record companies have given the Court enough information about your alleged infringement to obtain a subpoena to identify you, but the Court has not yet decided whether you are liable for infringement. You can challenge the subpoena in Court. You have 14 days from the date that you receive this notice to file a motion to quash or vacate the subpoena. If you file a motion to quash the subpoena, your identity will not be disclosed until the motion is resolved (and the companies cannot proceed against you until you are identified). The second page of this notice can assist you in locating an attorney, and lists other resources to help you determine how to respond to the subpoena. If you do not file a motion to quash, at the end of the 14 day period, your ISP will send the record
OTHER ISSUES REGARDING THE LAWSUIT AGAINST YOU
To maintain a lawsuit against you in the District Court of Massachusetts, the record companies must establish jurisdiction over you in Massachusetts. If you do not live or work in Massachusetts, or visit the state regularly, you may be able to challenge the Massachusetts court's jurisdiction over you. If your challenge is successful, the case in Massachusetts will be dismissed, but the record companies may be able to file against you in another state where there is jurisdiction.
The record companies may be willing to discuss the possible settlement of their claims against you. The parties may be able to reach a settlement agreement without your name appearing on the public record. You may be asked to disclose your identity to the record companies if you seek to pursue settlement. If a settlement is reached, the case against you will be dismissed. It is possible that defendants who seek to settle at the beginning of a case will be offered more favorable settlement terms by the record companies. You may contact the record companies' representatives by phone at (206) 973-4145, by fax at (206) 242-0905, or by email at infosettlementsupportcenter.com.
You may also wish to find your own lawyer (see resource list below) to help you evaluate whether it is in your interest to try to reach a settlement or to defend against the lawsuit.
The organizations listed below provide guidance on how to find an attorney. If you live in or near Massachusetts or Boston, the second and third listings below provide referrals for local attorneys.
American Bar Association
Massachusetts Bar Association
Lawyer referral service — (617) 338-0610
Boston Bar Association
Lawyer referral service — (617) 742-0625
The organizations listed below have appeared before other courts around the country in similar lawsuits as "friends of the court" to attempt to protect what they believe to be the due process and First Amendment rights of Doe defendants.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco, California 94110-1914
1600 20th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20009
The history of peer-to-peer networks has been one of increasing decentralization, and thus, increasing anonymity. See id. at 179-85 (tracing history of peer-to-peer network technologies through lawsuits asserting contributory copyright liability). Some newer peer-topeer technologies even dispense with supernodes. See, e.g., Grokster, 545 U.S. at 922, 125 S.Ct. 2764; Matthew Helton, Secondary Liability for Copyright Infringement: BitTorrent as a Vehicle for Establishing a New Copyright Definition for Staple Articles of Commerce, 40 Colum. J.L. & Soc. Probs. 1, 20-21 (2006) (discussing new version of software that permits direct peer-to-peer connection without the need for a proxy computer).
The Court recognizes that electronic copies can be of varying permanence, see MAI Sys. Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc., 991 F.2d 511, 518-19 (9th Cir. 1993) (discussing whether loading copyrighted software into temporary random access memory constitutes a "copy" under the Copyright Act), and it is not clear that all of them should be treated equally under the copyright statutes. But this is a clear case, at one end of the spectrum. The files at issue here were downloaded precisely to be copies, indefinitely replayable and transferable. The Court has no need to consider modes of electronic transmission beyond transfers over peer-to-peer networks.
The same movant further contends that the Linares affidavit, which forms the basis of some of the plaintiffs' prima facie case, should be stricken. The movant claims that MediaSentry, the private investigator who downloaded the files from the Does and recorded their IP addresses, see Linares Decl. at 4-6, Ex. A to PL Mot. Leave to Take Immediate Discovery (docket no. 07-cv 10834, document # 5), does not have the license to undertake private investigations required by Massachusetts General Laws ch. 147, §§ 23-25. The Court has no evidence properly before it as to whether or not MediaSentry has a license, how MediaSentry gathers its information, or whether that information is publicly available. It therefore declines to reach the issue on this record; the movant may refile a motion to strike.