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Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. Vidangel, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Utah

March 7, 2019

DISNEY ENTERPRISES, INC.; LUCASFILM LTD. LLC; TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX FILM CORPORATION; WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.; MVL FILM FINANCE LLC; NEW LINE PRODUCTIONS, INC.; and TURNER ENTERTAINMENT CO., Petitioners,
v.
VIDANGEL, INC., Defendant,

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING PETITIONERS' MOTIONS TO COMPEL IN PART

          CLARK WADDOUPS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court are four Motions to Compel Responses to subpoenas issued in Disney Enterprises, Inc. et al. v. VidAngel, Inc., No. 2:16-cv-04109-AB (C.D. Cal.) (the “California Case”).[1] For the reasons stated below, the court fully grants one of the motions, and grants three motions in part.

         Background

         On October 6, 2017, Plaintiffs in the California Case filed their First Amended Complaint. (2:16-cv-4109, C.D. Cal., ECF No. 228.) Plaintiffs in the California Case allege that VidAngel “violat[ed] copyright law and Plaintiffs' rights” by copying and streaming Plaintiffs' copyrighted works. (See 2:16-cv-4109, C.D. Cal., ECF No. 228 at 12.) Plaintiffs in the California Case argue that they are “entitled to statutory damages” for “VidAngel's willful infringement . . .” (See 2:16-cv-4109, C.D. Cal., ECF No. 228 at 19.) Courts consider certain factors in determining “what is a just amount of statutory damages in the copyright infringement context, ” including “the expenses saved and the profits reaped, ” “the revenues lost by the plaintiff, ” and “whether the defendant's conduct was innocent or willful.” Prod. Partners, LLC v. Aucoin, No. CV 09-7504-GHK (RCX), 2011 WL 13190160, at *2 n. 2 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 12, 2011).

         On January 23, 2019, four subpoenas relevant to the instant dispute were issued on four non-parties-(1) Dalton Wright, (2) Bill Aho, (3) Paul Ahlstrom, and (4) Harmon Ventures LLC. (See ECF Nos. 18-1 at 2; 17-1 at 2; 19-1 at 2; and 20-1 at 2.) The subpoenas seek documents that Petitioners argue are relevant to their claims for statutory damages in the California Case.

         On February 11 and February 13, 2019, Mr. Wright, Mr. Aho, and Harmon Ventures LLC, through their attorney David W. Quinto, submitted responses and objections to the subpoenas. (See ECF Nos. 2-1 at 7; 3-1 at 7; and 5-1 at 9.) Mr. Ahlstrom did not submit “any objections or response to the subpoena.” (ECF No. 4 at 3.) None of the four non-parties have produced any document in response to the subpoenas. (See ECF Nos. 2 at 4; 3 at 4; 4 at 3; and 5 at 4.)

         On February 22, 2019, Petitioners filed four Motions to Compel Responses to the subpoenas issued in the California Case. On February 25, 2019 the Petitioners paid their filing fee, and the filing date of the case was changed to 2/25/2019. (ECF No. 6.) On March 4, 2019, Mr. Wright, Mr. Aho, Harmon Ventures, and Paul Ahlstrom, through their attorney, Jay Morgan Philpot, filed Responses in Opposition and Counter Motions to Quash. (ECF Nos. 11-14.) On March 6, 2019, Petitioners filed Replies. (ECF Nos. 17-20.)

         Analysis

         “Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 45, nonparties to litigation may be served a subpoena commanding them to produce designated documents, electronically stored information, or tangible things in their possession, custody, or control.” Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., No. 12-CV-0630-LHK PSG, 2013 WL 1942163, at *1 (N.D. Cal. May 9, 2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(a)(1)(A)(iii)). “[T]he scope of discovery through a subpoena is the same as that applicable to Rule 34 and the other discovery rules.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 45, Advisory Committee Notes (1970). Rule 34(a) provides that “[a] party may serve on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). Rule 26(b) provides that [p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim . . . and proportional to the needs of the case . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b). “Relevance under Rule 26(b) is broadly defined, ‘although it is not without ultimate and necessary boundaries.'” Apple, Inc, 2013 WL 1942163 at *1. (citation omitted).

         Timeliness

         In each of their Responses, the four non-party Respondents argue that “[t]he subpoenas [were] untimely under the active scheduling order in the Central District of California, because it was not served sufficiently in advance of the March 18, 2019 fact discovery cut-off.” (See ECF Nos. 11, 12, 13, and 14.) The Respondents further argue that the “California court effectively decided this issue on March 4 when it entered two similar orders confirming that Plaintiffs' similarly timed discovery actions have been dilatory, untimely and outside the provision of the scheduling order.” (ECF id.) In their Replies, Petitioners argue that the subpoenas “were issued on January 23, 2019, well before the discovery cutoff on March 18, 2019” and argue that their Motions only involve “a small number of issues and limited responses, ” which Magistrate Judge Abrams would allow at this point. (ECF No. 18 at 2.) The court agrees with Petitioners that because the subpoenas were issued almost two months before the fact discovery cut-off, they are not untimely.

         Validity

         The Respondents argue that the subpoenas are invalid under DUCivR 37-1(a)(9) because they were not served with a copy of the local rule and are invalid under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 45(c)(2)(A) because they require compliance outside the 100 miles allowed. (See ECF Nos. 11, 12, 13, and 14.) Petitioners argue that the failure to include a copy of the local rule alongside their motions to compel does not warrant denial of Plaintiffs Motion. (See ECF No. 17 at 2 (citing Ellis-Hall Consultants, LLC v. Hoffman, 2018 WL 4215114, at *2 (D. Utah Sept. 4, 2018).) The court agrees with Petitioners and declines to deny Defendants' Motion based on this technical failure.

         Petitioners also argue that “nothing in the subpoena mandates compliance in California” and argue that “courts in this Circuit have repeatedly held that where, as here, a subpoena requires ‘only production of documents, there is no violation of the 100-mile limitation of Rule 45.'” (ECF No. 17 at 3.) The court agrees with Petitioners that the subpoenas do not violate Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 45(c)(2)(A).

         Dalton Wright

         In their January 23, 2019 subpoena to Dalton Wright, Petitioners made four requests for production:

1. “All documents or communications regarding VidAngel or the Vidangel Service.”
2. “All documents or communications related to any revenue, income, or profits You have received directly or indirectly from VidAngel.”
3. “All documents or communications related to any payments or investments You have made directly or indirectly to VidAngel or expenditures You have made directly or ...

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