The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Beryl A. Howell
Putative defendant Candice Seaverns has moved to intervene in this case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 in order to quash the subpoena issued by the plaintiff to her Internet Service Provider (hereinafter "ISP"), or, in the alternative, to obtain dismissal from these proceedings. On October 5, 2011, the plaintiff filed an opposition to the Movant's motion to intervene. As explained below, Ms. Seaverns's motion to intervene in this case is denied.
On May 24, 2010, plaintiff Voltage Pictures, LLC filed a Complaint against unnamed individuals who allegedly used a file-sharing protocol called BitTorrent to illegally infringe plaintiff's copyright in the motion picture The Hurt Locker. Compl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 1. Given that the defendants in this case were unidentified at the time the plaintiff filed its Complaint, on June 25, 2010, the Court granted the plaintiff leave to subpoena ISPs to obtain identifying information for the 687 specific IP addresses the plaintiff listed as a sample of putative defendants in this case. Minute Order dated June 25, 2010 (Urbina, J.).
Since the Court approved expedited discovery, ISPs have provided identifying information for the IP addresses in response to the plaintiff's subpoenas on a rolling basis. Prior to providing the plaintiff with identifying information, however, the ISPs sent notices to their subscribers informing them of their right to challenge release of information in this Court. Many of the subscribers moved to prevent release of identifying information, arguing primarily that (1) the subpoenas issued to their ISPs should be quashed to avoid disclosure of privileged or protected information, or that the subscribers should be dismissed because (2) he or she did not engage in the alleged illegal conduct, (3) the Court lacked personal jurisdiction, or (4) for improper joinder. On May 12, 2011, the Court denied the putative defendants' motions, on grounds, inter alia, that the motions were premature because the plaintiff had yet to name defendants in the case. Voltage Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-5,000, No. 10-cv-873,2011 WL 1807438(D.D.C. May 12, 2011). With regard to the release of the subscribers' identifying information, the Court held that the subscribers' right to anonymity in the context of their BitTorrent activity does not outweigh the plaintiff's need to conduct limited discovery to identify individuals infringing its copyright. Id. at *4.
On May 31, 2011, the plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1), in which it listed 24,583 putative defendants and twelve named defendants. Pl.'s Mot. Leave File First Am. Compl., ECF No. 143; Minute Order dated May 31, 2011 (Howell, J.); Pl.'s Am. Compl., ECF No. 172. Since the filing of the plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed three named defendants,*fn1 and 22,305 putative defendants for whom it had obtained identifying information and did not intend to sue in this district.
On July 5, 2011, Candice Seaverns (hereinafter "the Movant") filed a
motion to intervene "for the purposes of quashing or modifying the
subpoena issued to her ISP, or, in the alternative, raising defenses
under Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure."*fn2
ECF No. 190, at 1. The Movant claims that IP address
188.8.131.52 (putative defendant number 1348), which is listed in
the Amended Complaint, is associated with her computer and internet
usage. The plaintiff is apparently continuing to seek identifying
information for this IP address and has not dismissed this IP address
from this lawsuit. The Clerk inadvertently sealed the Movant's motion
to intervene, which prevented the plaintiff from viewing its contents.
On October 3, 2011, the Court directed the Clerk to unseal the motion,
and granted the plaintiff an opportunity to respond. Minute Order
dated Oct. 3, 2011 (Howell, J.). The plaintiff filed its opposition to
the Movant's motion to intervene on October 5, 2011. This motion is
now ripe and pending before the Court. For the reasons set forth
below, the Movant's motion to intervene is denied.
II.DENIAL OF THE MOVANT'S MOTION TO INTERVENE
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 states that the Court "must permit anyone to intervene who . . . claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest."
FED. R. CIV. P. 24(a)(2). To intervene as a matter of right under FED. R. CIV. P. 24(a), "(1) the application to intervene must be timely; (2) the applicant must demonstrate a legally protected interest in the action; (3) the action must threaten to impair that interest; and (4) no party to the action can be an adequate representative of the applicant's interests." Karsner v. Lothian, 532 F.3d 876, 885 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting SEC v. Prudential Sec. Inc., 136 F.3d 153, 156 (D.C. Cir. 1998)); see also Aref v. Holder, 774 F. Supp. 2d 147, 171 (D.D.C. 2011). If a movant does not meet the requirements to intervene as a matter of right, the Court may nonetheless allow intervention, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 24 (b), if the movant "has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact." FED. R. CIV. P. 24 (b)(1)(B).
In the instant case, the Movant timely moved to intervene, but she is not entitled to intervene as a matter of right because she does not have a sufficiently cognizable legally protected interest in the litigation. Furthermore, permissive intervention pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 24(b) is unnecessary.
A.The Movant Is Not Entitled to Intervene Pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 24(a)
To intervene as a matter of right pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 24(a)(2), the movant must demonstrate that a "significantly protectable interest" is at stake in the litigation. Donaldson v. United States, 400 U.S. 517, 531 (1971). This requirement refers "not to any interest the [Movant] can put forward, but only to a legally protectable one." Roane v. Gonzales, 269 F.R.D. 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting City of Cleveland, Ohio v. Nuclear Regulatory Comm'n, 17 F.3d 1515, 1517 (D.C. Cir. 1994)) (emphasis in original). Here, the Movant asserts that she has an interest in protecting release of her identifying information, and a "legally cognizable interest of due process" that warrants intervention. Movant's Mot. Intervene, ECF No. 190, at 3. The Court disagrees.
1.The Movant Does Not Have a Sufficiently Cognizable Legally Protected Interest in Protecting Release of ...