Case 1:13-cv-00893-RLV Document 5 Filed 04/18/13 Page 1 of 6
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
FILED IN CHAMBERS
JAM~JTE ,e rk
VOLTAGE PICTURES, LLC,
DOES 1-18j DOES 1-90j DOES 1
56i DOES 1-14i DOES 1 44j and
NO. 1:13-CV-895 RLV
o R D E R
In each of the above six complaints, the plaintiff alleges
that numerous unnamed persons, who are identifi~d as "John Doe"
infringement when the unnamed persons downloaded a movie called
"Maximum Conviction" using a file-sharing method.
comes before the court on the court's sua sponte review of the
complaints in these six complaints.
In its six complaints, the plaintiff alleges that each "John
Doe" defendant infringed on its copyright by sharing a movie named
"Maximum Conviction" on the BitTorrent internet peer-to-peer file
In its six complaints, the plaintiff states that
it did not name each defendant by name because it is "impossible
Case 1:13-cv-00893-RLV Document 5 Filed 04/18/13 Page 2 of 6
for [the plaintiff] to identify [the defendants] at this time."
However, the plaintiff argues that discovery will allow it to be
able to identify these potential "John Doe" defendants by their "IP
An "IP address" is a number assigned by various
internet service providers to individual devices that are connected
to the internet. According to the plaintiff, it can match up the
"IP address" with the individual who committed the copyright
infringement by obtaining this information from various internet
providers who possess the names, addresses, and phone numbers
associated with the "IP addresses" in question. As an exhibit to
each of the six complaints, the plaintiff attached a list of "IP
addresses" that it alleges could be used to identify the "John Doe"
defendants in the future.
In order to locate the various "John Doe
defendants," the plaintiff filed a motion in each of the six cases
to serve various non-party
internet service providers with
discovery requests prior to the service of the complaint on any
Because the undersigned was troubled by the potential joinder
of unrelated and unnamed defendants, this court conducted research
into this issue.
In each of the six complaints, the plaintiff
alleges that each defendant should be joined together with the
other "John Doe" defendants because each defendant is one of many
Case 1:13-cv-00893-RLV Document 5 Filed 04/18/13 Page 3 of 6
users who were simultaneously uploading and downloading its
copyrighted materials in violation of copyright laws. According to
the plaintiff, each "John Doe" defendant is acting as a member of
a "swarm, II which forms a "series of transactions" involving "common
questions of law and fact." Some courts have referred to this type
of joinder theory as the "swarm theory of joinder."
While this court recognizes that other courts have reached
disparate conclusions about the viability of "swarm theory of
joinder" in the federal courts, this court rejects this theory and
sides with those courts who have rejected the theory as an improper
attempt to join unrelated, unnamed defendants together into one
lawsuit. Therefore, the court concludes that defendants iIJ. each of
the six complaints were improperly joined together in violation of
Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 1
In reaching this conclusion, the court greatly relied upon the
analysis of United States District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr. of
this district who addressed a similar set of facts in Raw Films,
Inc. v. John Does 1-32, No. 1:11-CV-2939, 2011 WL 6840590 (N.D. Ga.
Dec. 29, 2011).
In Raw Films, Judge Thrash extensively examined
1 Pursuant to Rule 20's clear language, this court can drop a
party or sever the claims against any party improperly joined on
its own motion.
Case 1:13-cv-00893-RLV Document 5 Filed 04/18/13 Page 4 of 6
the basis for
plaintiff's joinder of the defendants in these six cases. After
examining the allegations in Raw Films, Judge Thrash concluded that
the various "John Doe" defendants in that case had been improperly
joined in violation of Rule 20 because the plaintiff in that case
had not properly alleged that the "John Doe" defendants were
engaged in a common series of transactions or occurrences.
In these six cases, the court reaches the same conclusion
reached by Judge Thrash in Raw Films.
In these six cases, the
plaintiff segregates the "John Doe" defendants into six separate
"swarm groups." While plaintiff alleges that the six "swarm
groups" are linked together closely in time in unnamed defendants'
downloading and uploading activity, the court concludes that the
plaintiff does not adequately allege that the defendants were
engaged in a common series of transactions as required by Rule 20.
Therefore, this court, like Judge Thrash did in Raw Films, severs
the claims by the plaintiff against each of
the "John Doe"
defendants from the first-named "John Doe" defendant in each of the
six cases. Because the "John Doe" defendants were improperly
joined to the first-named "John Doe" defendant in each of the above
six cases, the court dismisses without prejudice the plaintiff's
claims against the improperly joined "John Doe" defendants in each
Case 1:13-cv-00893-RLV Document 5 Filed 04/18/13 Page 5 of 6
of the six cases. After this dismissal based on improper joinder,
only the first "John Doe" defendant in each of the six cases would
However, the court also concludes that the first-named "John
Doe" defendant in each of the six cases should be dismissed without
prejudice for a separate and independent reason, i.e., fictitious
party practice is not permitted in federal court. See New v. Sports
& Rec., 114 F.3d 1092, 1094 n1 (11th Cir. 1997). While this court
recognizes that many courts have created a series of exceptions to
this general rule, the court concludes that none of the exceptions
are applicable here.
In reaching this conclusion, the court notes
that the plaintiff in each of these six cases has not adequately
described the "John Doe" defendants.
In this court's opinion, an
"IP address" without more does not adequately identify or describe
a potential defendant. For example, it is possible that multiple
people may use the same computer which is identified by one "IP
address," i. e ., a publ ic computer or a computer used by various
family or individuals at a work place. Because the court cannot
allow the use of "fictitious party practice" given the lack of an
adequate description or identification of the potential defendants,
Case 1:13-cv-00893-RLV Document 5 Filed 04/18/13 Page 6 of 6
the court DISMISSES the first-named "John Doe" defendant in each of
the above six cases without prejudice. 2
For the above reasons, the court DISMISSES all of the "John
Doe" defendants WITHOUT PREJUDICE in the above six cases.
Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE all six cases and TERMINATE all
pending motions in each of the six cases above.
SO ORDERED, this II~
Senior United States District Judge
2 Even if this court had not dismissed the improperly joined
"John Doe" defendants from the first-named "John Doe" defendant in
each of the six cases based upon improper joinder in violation of
Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it would have
dismissed all of
defendants were not properly identified, which amounts to improper
"fictitious party pleading." As the court stated in the body of
its order, a "John Doe" designation may be allowed in certain
limited circumstances that are not applicable here.
these "John Doe" defendants because