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Malibu Media, LLC v. Doe

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

August 15, 2014

JOHN DOE subscriber assigned IP address,, Defendant

For Malibu Media, LLC, Plaintiff: Jon A. Hoppe, MADDOX, HOPPE, HOOFNAGLE & HAFEY, L.L.C., Largo , MD.

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Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's [3] Motion for Leave to Serve a Third Party Subpoena Prior to a Rule 26(f) Conference. Plaintiff, Malibu Media, has filed an action against Defendant, John Doe, under the Copyright Act of 1976, alleging that Defendant used BitTorrent file sharing to copy and distribute Plaintiff's copyrighted works. Plaintiff seeks leave of the Court to serve a Rule 45 subpoena on John Doe Defendant's Internet Service Provider, identified in Exhibits A and B of the Complaint as Comcast Cable, so that Plaintiff may learn Defendant's true identity. Upon consideration of the pleadings,[1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record for purposes of this motion, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion for Expedited Discovery.


A. Factual Background

Plaintiff, Malibu Media LLC, operates a subscription based website comprised of its copyrighted content. Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 1 (Colette Field Decl.) ¶ ¶ 8-13. Using Defendant John Doe's Internet Protocol (" IP" ) address (a series of numbers assigned to each Internet service subscriber) and IP geolocation technology, Plaintiff's investigator, IPP International UG (" IPP" ), identified Defendant John Doe's IP address as using the BitTorrent file distribution network to access and distribute copyrighted movies owned by Plaintiff. Compl. ¶ ¶ 2, 5, 18-21. IPP's software traced Defendant's IP address to a physical address located within the District of Columbia. Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiff now seeks relief against Defendant, but only knows Defendant by his or her IP address. Id. ¶ 9.

B. Procedural Background

On August 4, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court, alleging that Defendant John Doe committed tortious copyright infringement in violation of the United States Copyright Act of 1976, as amended, 17 U.S.C. § § 101 et seq. The same day, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Expedite Discovery so that it could identify and properly serve Defendant John Doe. Pl.'s Mot., ECF No. [3]. Plaintiff alleges that the only way it may identify Defendant is to subpoena the Defendant's Internet Service Provider (ISP), Comcast Cable, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45. Id.


A plaintiff who seeks to conduct expedited discovery prior to the Rule 26(f) Conference in order to learn the identity of putative defendants is in essence seeking jurisdictional discovery. See Exquisite Multimedia, Inc. v. Does 1-336, No. 11-1976, 2012 WL 177885, at *1 (D.D.C. Jan. 19, 2012). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d) explains that parties may generally seek discovery only after a Rule 26(f) conference, " except . . . when authorized by . . . court order." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(d)(1). This Circuit has held that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 " vests the trial judge with broad discretion to tailor discovery narrowly and to dictate the sequence of discovery." Watts v. SEC, 482 F.3d 501, 507, 375 U.S.App.D.C. 409

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(D.C. Cir. 2007) (quoting Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 598, 118 S.Ct. 1584, 140 L.Ed.2d 759 (1998)). To determine whether to authorize discovery prior to a Rule 26(f) conference in a particular case, this district has applied a " good cause" standard. See Warner Bros. Records Inc. v. Does 1-6, 527 F.Supp.2d 1, 2 (D.D.C. 2007) (" the Court finds that plaintiffs have made a showing of good cause for the discovery they seek" ). In order to obtain jurisdictional discovery a " plaintiff must have at least a good faith belief that such discovery will enable it to show that the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant." Exquisite Multimedia, Inc., 2012 WL 177885, at *1 (quoting Caribbean Broad. Sys. Ltd. v. Cable & Wireless PLC, 148 F.3d 1080, 1090, 331 U.S.App.D.C. 226 (D.C. Cir. 1998)). See also Exponential Biotherapies, Inc. v. Houthoff Buruma N.V., 638 F.Supp.2d 1, 11 (D.D.C. 2009) (holding that while " as a general matter, discovery should be freely permitted . . . [j]urisdictional discovery is justified only if the plaintiff reasonably demonstrates that it can supplement its jurisdictional allegations through discovery." ) (quoting Kopff v. Battaglia, 425 F.Supp.2d 76, 89 (D.D.C. 2006)). " Mere conjecture or speculation" is not enough to justify jurisdictional discovery. FC Investment Group LC v. IFX Markets Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1094, 381 U.S.App.D.C. 383 (D.C. Cir. 2008).

Plaintiff's cause of action, tortious copyright infringement, is brought under a federal statute, the Copyright Act. The Copyright Act does not provide for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over alleged infringers on any basis. See Exquisite Multimedia, Inc., 2012 WL 177885, at *2. Therefore, Plaintiff must predicate this Court's jurisdiction over the infringers on the reach of District of Columbia law. Id. District of Columbia law provides for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a person domiciled in the District of Columbia as to " any claim for relief." Id. (quoting D.C. Code ...

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