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Copyright Law

: Recording Industry vs The People

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

By Ty Rogers and Ray Beckerman


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Order dismissing as to Does 2-5 for improper joinder*
Order denying RIAA motion for reconsideration of order dismissing as to Does 2-5 for improper joinder*
Order dismissing as to plaintiffs Atlantic, Capitol, Elektra, Arista, Priority, and Maverick, for improper joinder of plaintiffs*

* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation

Commentary & discussion:
Ars Technica

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

Full post as published by Recording Industry vs The People on February 14, 2008 (boomark / email).

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