Pattishall IP Blog

November 22, 2011

First Amendment Right To Anonymous Speech Trumps Right To Discover Identity Of Blogger Alleged To Have Infringed Copyrighted Works of Art Of Living Foundation

Filed under: Constitution, Copyright, First Amendment — Tags: , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 1:02 pm

Categories: Copyright, First Amendment, Constitution

Tags: First Amendment, Discovery , Phillip Barengolts

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

“Skywalker’s First Amendment right to anonymous speech outweighs the need for discovery at this time.” Art of Living Foundation v. Does 1-10, No. 10-cv-05022 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 9, 2011).[1]  This statement and the decision in Art of Living Foundation has significant consequences for intellectual property owners pursuing claims against defendants hiding behind privacy services, pseudonyms, or using other identity blocking methods – an increasingly common obstacle to enforcing intellectual property rights.

But first, a few words about the parties.  The Art of Living Foundation (“AOLF”) is an international “educational and humanitarian” organization dedicated to teaching the spiritual lessons of “His Holiness Ravi Shankar.”[2]  Technically, the plaintiff in this case is the U.S. branch of AOLF.  The defendants, who go by the pseudonyms “Skywalker” and “Klim,” write blogs that criticize AOLF.  Allegedly, they are disgruntled former participants in AOLF.

After filing a complaint for defamation, trade secret misappropriation, trade libel, and copyright infringement, AOLF sought expedited discovery to learn the true identities of Skywalker and Klim.  The magistrate in the case granted this request and AOLF issued subpoenas to Google and Automattic – the companies that host the defendants’ blogs.  AOLF’s stated purpose for the subpoenas was to serve the complaint upon the defendants.  The defendants made special appearances through counsel to move to quash these subpoenas, among other motions that ultimately left only the copyright and trade secret misappropriation claims pending.[3]

(more…)

May 16, 2011

Federal Judge Rules Copyright Owner Cannot Pursue Discovery of ISP’s to Learn the Identity of Owners of IP Addresses Accused of Illegally Downloading Pornographic Movies

Filed under: E-Discovery, Internet, Litigation — Tags: , , — Pattishall, McAuliffe, Newbury, Hilliard & Geraldson LLP @ 1:25 pm

Categories: Internet, E-Discovery, Litigation
Tags: John Doe Lawsuits, Discovery, Phillip Barengolts

by Phillip Barengolts, Trademark Attorney

Copyright owners in pursuit of file-sharers and illegal downloaders often rely on John Doe lawsuits to learn the identities of the accused infringers.  These owners file suit, then send demand letters to the defendants, and reach quick settlements.  In VPR Internationale v. Does 1-1017, No. 2:11-cv-2068 (C.D. Ill. Apr. 29, 2011), VPR, an adult film producer filed suit and sought class certification against unknown owners of internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with the unauthorized sharing of VPR’s films through the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing protocol.  After filing suit, VPR sought discovery of the Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) that hosted the IP addresses for the defendant file-sharers.

VPR relied heavily on discovery rulings in prior music downloading suits to support its request for discovery from the ISP’s.  Moreover, VPR argued that it needed this discovery because physical evidence of the infringement (i.e., the identifying information) would be destroyed quickly by the ISP’s as part of their routine destruction processes and “because this suit cannot proceed without this information.” (more…)

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