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Tcyk, LLC v. Does 1-62

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

December 18, 2013

TCYK, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
DOES 1-62, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff TCYK, LLC brings a complaint for copyright infringement against 62 unnamed "John Doe" defendants.[1] Plaintiff alleges that the Doe defendants used the BitTorrent software protocol to unlawfully transfer the copyrighted motion picture "The Company You Keep, " to which Plaintiff holds the exclusive rights, in violation of the United States Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101, et seq. Now before the court are numerous motions by the Doe defendants to quash the subpoenas and to sever and dismiss individual Doe defendants from this action. For the reasons explained below, the motions to quash and sever are denied.

I. BACKGROUND

At the time the complaint was filed, the Doe defendants were known to Plaintiff only by the Internet Protocol ("IP") addresses assigned by their Internet Service Providers ("ISPs") and by the date and time at which the infringing activity was observed. Plaintiff alleges that each of the defendants has an IP address based in Illinois. Plaintiff has issued subpoenas to the ISPs seeking information sufficient to identify each Doe defendant's name and contact information. Some of the Doe defendants, having been notified by their ISP of the subpoena, move to quash the subpoena and/or ask the court to sever and dismiss them from this case:

• Motion to Quash [14] by Doe (# unknown), based on improper joinder and the inability of the Plaintiff to identify the actual downloader based on the identity of the subscriber.
• Motion to Quash [17] by Doe 56, based on improper joinder and the inability of the Plaintiff to identify the actual downloader based on the identity of the subscriber. Alternatively, Doe 56 asks to remain anonymous during this litigation.
• Motion to Quash [26] by Doe (# unknown), stating "wrong IP address."
• Motion to Vacate, Quash, Sever, and Dismiss [22] by Doe 40.

II. ANALYSIS

As an initial matter, Doe 40's motion [22] is denied as moot because Plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed Doe 40 from this action without prejudice. The issues raised in the remaining motions to quash and sever have been considered at length in the opinions of other courts in this district, and this court's discussion is therefore brief.

A. The BitTorrent Software Protocol

Plaintiff alleges that the Doe defendants each used the BitTorrent protocol to download and distribute the motion picture "The Company You Keep." Many fellow district courts have explained the BitTorrent protocol. See, e.g., TCKY, LLC v. Does 1-87, No. 13 C 3845, 2013 WL 3465186 (N.D. Ill. July 10, 2013); Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-25, No. 12 C 9655 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 24, 2013); Malibu Media, LLC v. John Does 1-6, 291 F.R.D. 191 (N.D. Ill. 2013); Malibu Media, LLC v. Reynolds, No. 12 C 6672, 2013 WL 870618 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 7, 2013).

To summarize briefly, the BitTorrent software protocol breaks up large digital files into smaller pieces. Participants in a BitTorrent file-sharing instance (a "swarm") download these individual pieces from other peer participants. When an individual piece has been downloaded, the protocol permits a participant to make that piece available for peers to download. When a participant has downloaded copies of all of the pieces that made up the original file, the software assembles a copy of the file from the constituent pieces. After his or her own copy is assembled, the user may elect to leave the BitTorrent software running, which makes pieces of the file available for new peers to download. A BitTorrent user may leave the swarm at any time, before or after completing her download, ending her participation in both downloading and sharing. A user may also rejoin the swarm at a later time to complete her download or to continue sharing pieces with other peers. Thus, while a participant in the swarm is downloading the file, and possibly even afterwards, that participant ...


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