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Archive for the ‘Duty to Produce’ Category

Case Summary: Seven Seas Cruises; Gaps in the Production Examined

Posted by rjbiii on March 24, 2011

Seven Seas Cruises S. De. R.L. v. V. Ships Leisure SAM, 09-23411-CIV-UNGARO/SIMONTON, 2011 U.S. Lexis 19465 (S.D. Fla., Feb. 19, 2011).

Plaintiff Seven Seas initiated the action against multiple defendants, claiming damages from defendants’ “failure to provide proper ship management, care and oversight for several cruise ships…”. Specific accusations included, inter alia: negligent representations, negligence, and breach of contract. After defendants answered, and both sides filed tit for tat motions for summary judgment, the court issued an order granting a motion to compel filed by Plaintiffs. The motion required defendants to:

  • Identify which employees’ systems had been searched;
  • Explain the absence of certain documents from production; and
  • Describe search terms used to conduct ESI searches.

The order allowed that after defendants filed an affidavit with the information required by the order, plaintiffs were free to renew their motion for to compel further discovery. They elected to do exactly that, resulting in this opinion.

Plaintiffs’ position:

Plaintiffs maintain that they have discovered “gaps” in the production by plaintiffs, despite defendants’ repeated assurances to the contrary. First, plaintiffs contend defendants searched (and produced) the ESI for a mere nine employees, failing to search other custodians likely possessing relevant data. Seven Seas had submitted a list of 19 employees/custodians or email addresses that were incorrectly excluded from searches.

Next, Seven Seas argue that the production for those custodians that were searched was incomplete. To bolster their claim, plaintiffs identified specific time frames where ESI was not produced for those custodians. They claimed this was the case for at least four custodians. Plaintiff’s attorneys approach in pressing their case is described by the court:

At the hearing, Plaintiffs chronologically recounted each request made by Plaintiffs through the course of discovery regarding the production of ESI, and also reiterated the representations made by the Defendants in response to those requests. Generally, throughout the course of the ESI discovery, Defendants assured Plain-tiffs that Defendants were conducting complete ESI searches for materials responsive to Plaintiffs’ requests. Plaintiffs contend, however, that each time such production or representation regarding the thoroughness of the production was made, that Plaintiffs later found out that the production was not, in fact, complete.

In addition, throughout the hearing, Plaintiffs pointed to statements made by Defendants in submissions to the Court wherein Defendants repeatedly asserted that all relevant custodians’ computers and laptops had been searched. According to Plaintiffs, as a result of the repeated assurances by Defendants that ultimately proved to not be true, Plaintiffs have no confidence in the Defendants’ ability to conduct proper ESI searches, and further have no faith in the Defendants’ representations regarding the same.

And then they bring it home with this:

Thus, Plaintiffs argue that because the Defendants’ failure to produce all responsive ESI discovery has prejudiced the Plaintiffs and because such omissions are ongoing and intentional, that the Court should strike the Defendants’ pleadings and enter a final default judgment against both Defendants. In addition, Plaintiffs request that the Defendants be ordered to pay the costs associated with Plaintiffs having to bring the Renewed Motion to Compel.

Post Process Comment: From the outside looking in, it really looks like counsel for Seven Seas went about this the right way. We have analyzed, in the past four years, innumerable cases where the court felt the need to admonish counsel for vagueness, or making conclusory statements without backing them up with evidence. Here, counsel went through a round of “attack analytics,” (we’ll look at this in a moment) during which they analyzed the production, documented what they perceived as deficiencies, and presented their findings as argument, while including specific examples for the court to hang its hat on. Of course, we aren’t done…defendants get their chance to speak.

Defendants position:

Defendants “generally took exception” with some of the “missing custodians” included on Plaintiffs list, and supplemented their arguments with specific information to explain the absence of either custodians from the search, or for data missing for specific time periods from produced custodians.

Defendants then acknowledged that not all relevant ESI had been produced, and then conceded that “in hindsight” and e-discovery consultant or vendor should have been retained to assist them.

Post Process Comment: This is a telling admission. It is an implicit acknowledgment that eDiscovery methodologies weren’t solid due to the inexperience of their staff who were engaged in the project.

In an effort to put the best face on things, V. Ships Leisure reiterated earlier assertions (at least to effort…doesn’t seem possible that they continued to claim the production wasn’t deficient in light of their earlier admission). They also noted that they had supplemented production with additional data, and were prepared to hand over more data that very day. V Ships Leisure then noted went to the “volume defense” by noting that they had already produced hundreds of thousands of documents (ESI and hard copy). They also defended their efforts by noting that some of their custodians were overseas, complicating the logistics behind their project.

V Ships Leisure continued their arguments by stating that the bulk of the relevant evidence was contained in correspondence between plaintiffs and defendants, so plaintiffs already had most of the evidence prior to their suit. Defendants complained that Seven Seas had never alerted them to the gaps prior to filing their motion. Although defendants agreed to re-execute the searches on both already produced custodians and on “missing” custodians, they also claimed that no prejudice to plaintiffs had been demonstrated, an argument plaintiffs could not refute.

Post Process Commentary: Defendants fought back hard, but is it enough? Their admissions may be the most significant part of their arguments, but perhaps their efforts in already producing substantial volumes of data, and the potential lack of prejudice to plaintiffs will carry the day.

The court began by reciting the law behind FRCP 37.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 addresses a litigant’s failure to make disclosures or to cooperate in discovery and sets forth sanctions that may be imposed by a Court. Rule 37 sanctions are intended to prevent unfair prejudice to the litigants and insure the integrity of the discovery process.” Thus, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 gives a district court the power to enter a default, strike pleadings, or render judgment against a party that disobeys the court’s discovery or pretrial scheduling orders. However, the severe sanction of a default judgment is appropriate only as a last resort, when less drastic sanctions would not ensure compliance with the court’s orders. In addition, Rule 37(b) only permits imposition of the ultimate sanction if a party willfully or in bad faith failed to obey a discovery order. It is not justified under Rule 37(b) if a party’s failure to comply with a discovery order was caused by simple negligence or a misunderstanding of the court order. If the party does not provide a credible explanation of how he interpreted an order compelling discovery in a way that excluded certain documents from the scope of the order, the party’s unsupported assertion that it misunderstood the order is insufficient, and it is not clear error for the district court to find that the party’s failure to comply with the discovery order was willful and in bad faith. Further, when a party claims that he was unable to produce documents in the time allowed by the court, but he does not produce any evidence to support the argument, a district court’s finding of willfulness is not clearly erroneous. Nonetheless, a district court is not required to first impose lesser sanctions if the lesser sanction would be ineffective.

Defendants’ Failure to Produce ESI:

The court began by reciting a history of disputes caused by defendant’s failures to produce or thoroughly search for potentially relevant ESI. The court then admonished both parties for failing to conduct an early meet and confer:

[I]t appears that many of the disputes related to the production of e-discovery could have been significantly narrowed, if not totally avoided, had the Parties held an e-discovery conference early-on in the litigation as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(f), wherein issues regarding disclosure and production of ESI could have been thoroughly discussed.

Continuing on, the court articulated its first major conclusion:

[I]t is clear that the Defendants have failed to properly conduct complete, thorough and timely searches of ESI responsive to the Plaintiffs’ discovery requests. There is no doubt that the manner and method in which the Defendants conducted their ESI searches were wholly inadequate.

That said, the court noted that because the production gaps had not yet been plugged, the damage done to plaintiff’s case could not yet be determined. The court also applied some blame to Seven Seas, noting that they could have identified missing custodians or data sources earlier. While the court granted that defendant’s deficiencies were more likely due to its staff’s “unfamiliarity” with e-discovery, and not any malfeasance, the continued inability to conduct EDD competently at this point in the game is inexcusable.

On this point, the court stated:

Indeed after this Court’s January 19th Order, if not before, the Defendants should have reasonably known that they needed to retain an E-discovery consultant to ensure that they properly conducted their ESI searches.

Because of this, said the court, sanctions were appropriate. The ordered defendants to engage an electronic discovery vendor to assist in searching and producing ESI from certain custodians included on plaintiff’s “missing custodian list.” Plaintiff’s request to re-execute searches over the data sets associated with custodians whose ESI had already produced was denied, as in the court’s view, the production of this data was sufficient.

The court concluded that the appropriate sanctions were to:

  • Deny defendants motion for summary judgment;
  • Award plaintiffs attorneys costs, to be paid by defendants.

The court declined to enter a default judgment on behalf of plaintiffs, as had been requested in the Motion to Compel.

Post Process Comment: The sanctions imposed might be considered fairly mild, considering some of the language contained within the opinion. The biggest mitigating factor for defendants appeared to be the lack of any evidence concerning damage done to plaintiffs case by the omissions in production.

I’d like to reflect a bit on the evidence and arguments brought by Plaintiffs to demonstrate that deficiencies exist in the production. There are two common methods of attacking document productions. You can impugn the results–that is, the contents in the production dataset–or you can question the methodology that produced the dataset. Here, we see examples of both.

In attacking the production, plaintiffs examined the production and reviewed what custodians might be missing. This can be done by reviewing correspondence. When you get significant email or mail traffic going to or coming from individuals whose data has not been produced, a flag should come up. And that’s what was done here.

Another way to look at custodians or data sources is to obtain knowledge of opposing party’s IT systems to ensure that all repositories were searched. Perhaps a Sharepoint site was established where an implicated project’s documents were stored, but not searched or produced.

By attacking the results, you eventually hope to discover a weak methodology or holes in the workflow…because merely pointing out bad results can sometimes be dismissed by legitimate factors (so-called safe harbor deletions, or data residing in sources which are “not readily accessible”).  Of course, if production results are obviously deficient, then perhaps that in itself can provide sufficient ammunition to warrant sanctions or other measures.

Next, plaintiffs looked at material from those custodians whose data was produced, and analyzed its completeness by focusing on chronology. This “production gap” analysis has proven very effective, in my experience. Sometimes such gaps can be legitimately explained, but their existence, especially across multiple custodians, should be explored.

Posted in 11th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Cooperation Between Parties, Cost of Discovery, Discovery Requests, Duty to Disclose, Duty to Produce, FRCP 26(f), FRCP 37, Magistrate Judge Andrea M. Simonton, Meet and Confer, Motion to Compel, S.D. Fla., Sanctions | 2 Comments »

Case Summary: AccessData; Effects of German Blocking Statute on Discovery Obligations

Posted by rjbiii on January 27, 2010

AccessData Corp. v. ALSTE Techs. GMBH, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4566 (D. Utah Jan. 21, 2010).

Background: In May, 2005, AccessData and ALSTE Technologies GmbH (“ALSTE”) entered into a contract allowing ALSTE to resell to their customers. Since executing the agreement, ALSTE has sold “hundreds, if not thousands” of AccessData’s products. AccessData sued ALSTE for breach of contract, alleging that over $79,000 in invoices had not been paid for its FTK toolkit 2.0 software. While ALSTE admits that it hasn’t paid the invoices in question, it asserts that it shouldn’t be made to, as the software is defective. ALSTE also filed a counterclaim for the breach of a technical support agreement requiring AccessData to pay ALSTE $2,000 to $4,000 per month to cover technical support for users of AccessData’s products in Germany who were not also customers of ALSTE.

Procedural History: AccessData made requests to ALSTE for the production of documents containing information on customer complaints and any resulting injury suffered by ALSTE. AccessData also propounded interrogatories asking ALSTE to provide information and document regarding any technical support it provided non-customers under the Technical Support Agreement. ALSTE objected to the interrogatories and production requests, contending they were: 1) overly broad, unduly burdensome, and sought irrelevant information, and 2) the disclosure of information relating to third parties identities would violate German law. Access then filed the motion to compel on which the court rules in this opinion.

Discussion: The court stated that ALSTE assertion that providing personal information about its customers and their employees “would be a huge breach of fundamental privacy laws in Germany,” was not backed up by reference to any specific rule or law. ALSTE failed to cite any provision of the German Data Protection Act (GDPA) or German Constitution to back-up its claim. The court then noted that I, Section 4c of the GDPA, entitled “Derogations,” allows for the transfer of personal information to countries without the same level of data protection if the data subject gives his or her consent, or the transfer is necessary or legally required for the establishment, exercise, or defense of legal claims. The court wrote that ALSTE had not described any difficulties in obtaining consent, or explained why the provisions would not apply to this case.

Even in the event that ALSTE had overcome those challenges, the court stated that it disagreed with ALSTE’s assertion that the court must comply with the Hague Convention’s rules governing disclosure of evidence to courts in foreign countries. Citing Societe Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale v. United States District Court, 482 U.S. 522, 544, 107 S. Ct. 2542, 96 L. Ed. 2d 461 (1987), the court noted that the law in the U.S. was: “It is well settled that such [blocking] statutes do not deprive an American court of the power to order a party subject to its jurisdiction to produce evidence even though the act of production may violate that statute.”

The Supreme Court referenced the American Law Institute summary of the interplay between blocking statutes and discovery orders generally:

“[W]hen a state has jurisdiction to prescribe and its courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate, adjudication should (subject to generally applicable rules of evidence) take place on the basis of the best information available . . . . [Blocking] statutes that frustrate this goal need not be given the same deference by courts of the United States as substantive rules of law at variance with the law of the United States.”

Ultimately, the court decided on this issue to overrule the objections to the discovery request and required ALSTE to search through their data repositories and produce the requested data.

Posted in 10th Circuit, Blocking Statutes, Case Summary, D. Utah, Discovery Requests, Duty to Disclose, Duty to Preserve, Duty to Produce, Hague Convention, International Issues, Magistrate Judge Paul M. Warner | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Collins & Aikman Corp.; Deliberative Process Privilege discussed

Posted by rjbiii on February 3, 2009

The deliberative process privilege protects from disclosure “‘documents reflecting advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations comprising part of a process by which governmental decisions and policies are formulated.'” The privilege is intended “‘to enhance the quality of agency decisions, by protecting open and frank discussion among those who make them within the Government.'”

In order to qualify for the privilege, a document must be “predecisional” and “deliberative.” A document is predecisional if it was “‘prepared in order to assist an agency decisionmaker in arriving at his decision.'” The agency claiming privilege “must be able to demonstrate that . . . the document for which . . . privilege is claimed related to a specific decision, facing the agency.” Moreover, the privilege does not extend to “‘purely factual’ material” or subjective discussions insofar as they were later adopted or incorporated in a final agency opinion. A document is deliberative if it is “‘actually . . . related to the process by which policies are formulated.'” Factors used to determine whether a document is deliberative include “whether the document ‘(i) formed an essential link in a specified consultative process, (ii) reflects the personal opinions of the writer rather than the policy of the agency, and (iii) if released, would inaccurately reflect or prematurely disclose the views of the agency.”

SEC v. Collins & Aikman Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3367 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 13, 2009)(internal citations removed).

Posted in 2nd Circuit, Case Blurbs, Deliberative Process Privilege, Duty to Produce, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, S.D.N.Y | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Collins & Aikman Corp.; Form of Document Production for Gov’t Entities Conducting Investigations

Posted by rjbiii on February 3, 2009

Under Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party has two options for the production of documents in response to a discovery request. The litigant may either produce documents “as they are kept in the usual course of business or must organize and label them to correspond to the categories in the request.” The Advisory Committee Note states that the purpose of this new rule language — added in 1980 — was to eliminate the practice of “‘deliberately [mixing] critical documents with others in the hope of obscuring significance.'” Allowing the production of documents as they “are actually kept in the usual course of business” was intended to minimize the burden of production while maintaining the “internal logic reflecting business use.”

Rule 34 does not elaborate on the term “usual course of business.” A party choosing to produce documents as maintained in the ordinary course of business “bears the burden of demonstrating that the documents made available were in fact produced consistent with that mandate.” In most cases, documents produced pursuant to Rule 34 will be organized by subject matter or category. The provision prohibits “simply dumping large quantities of unrequested materials onto the discovering party along with the items actually sought.”

The SEC [(producing party)] contends that even if the compilations are not protected as work product, it has the option of producing the complete, unfiltered, and unorganized investigatory file, as this is how the documents are maintained in the usual course of its business. As noted above, Rule 34 mandates that documents must be produced organized by the subjects of the request or organized as they are kept in the usual course of business by the producing party. The key to this dichotomy is the assumption that in either case the documents will be organized — that records kept in the usual course of business would not be maintained in a haphazard fashion. Thus regardless of the form chosen, the production will be useful to the requesting party, and neither choice will inject unnecessary time and cost into litigation.

In order to determine what constitutes an appropriate production of records as they are kept in the “usual course of business,” it is first necessary to define that term. To begin with, not every litigant is a business or functions in the manner of a business. Black’s Law Dictionary defines a business as “[a] commercial enterprise carried on for profit; a particular occupation or employment habitually engaged in for livelihood or gain.” Only as a secondary definition, business constitutes “[b]y extension, transactions or matters of a noncommercial nature.”
[…]
By rough analogy to Rule 803(6), the option of producing documents “as they are kept in the usual course of business” under Rule 34 requires the producing party to meet either of two tests. First, this option is available to commercial enterprises or entities that function in the manner of commercial enterprises. Second, this option may also apply to records resulting from “regularly conducted activity.” Where a producing party’s activities are not “routine and repetitive” such as to require a well-organized record-keeping system — in other words when the records do not result from an “ordinary course of business” — the party must produce documents according to the sole remaining option under Rule 34: “organize[d] and label[ed] . . . to correspond to the categories in the request.”

The logic of Rule 34 supports this limitation. When records do not result from “routine and repetitive” activity, there is no incentive to organize them in a predictable system. The purpose of the Rule is to facilitate production of records in a useful manner and to minimize discovery costs; thus it is reasonable to require litigants who do not create and/or maintain records in a “routine and repetitive” manner to organize the records in a usable 55 fashion prior to producing them.

However conducting an investigation — which is by its very nature not routine or repetitive — cannot fall within the scope of the “usual course of business.” While the SEC routinely collects and maintains regulatory submissions such 10-K reports, in its investigative capacity the agency conducts tailored probes of a company or an industry, requiring the gathering of records from diverse sources. Many if not most of the 1.7 million documents in the SEC production here were likely collected in the agency’s investigatory role. Thus it is no surprise that the complete collection is maintained as it was collected — in large disorderly databases. The documents can only be provided in a useful manner if the agency organizes or labels them to correspond to each demand. Based on the SEC’s submission, it appears that this has already been done through the lead litigation attorney’s creation of the 175-plus file folders at issue.

Therefore, the SEC must respond to [Requesting Party’s] request for production by providing him with the documents that respond to those requests. [Requesting Party] has not requested the SEC file folders as such, but many of them correlate with the factual allegations in the Complaint, the subjects of the requests. Thus, to the extent that one or more of the 175 folders assembled by the SEC’s attorneys constitute the complete set of documents relevant to a particular request…

SEC v. Collins & Aikman Corp., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3367 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 13, 2009)(internal citations removed).

Posted in 2nd Circuit, Case Blurbs, Duty to Produce, Form of Production, In the Ordinary Course of Business, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, S.D.N.Y | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Ahner; Fact that Producing Party is Testifying Witness Magnifies Need for Disclosure During Discovery

Posted by rjbiii on October 17, 2008

[Producing Party] argues…Rule 26(b)(4) precludes the [Requesting Party] from seeking information from it by subpoena because it is [Plaintiff’s] retained expert and its former employee, Nickie G. Cammarata, has been listed as an expert trial witness by [Plaintiff]. On the contrary, [Producing Party’s] status as a party’s testifying expert makes it more important, not less, that the facts and documents underlying its opinions be disclosed in response to a valid discovery request.

Indeed, Rule 26(a)(2) provides that parties must initially disclose, without awaiting a discovery request, the identity of any expert witness, “the data or other information considered by the witness in forming the opinions; [and] any exhibits to be used as a summary of or support for the opinions.” Although this court’s scheduling order altered the deadline imposed by the Federal Rules by which parties must provide their expert reports, underlying data and exhibits, neither that order nor Rule 26(b)(4) precludes the [Requesting Party] from propounding a subpoena duces tecum that seeks such underlying information as already exists. Rule 26(b)(4) only restricts when a party may depose its opponent’s testifying and non-testifying experts or propound interrogatories to its opponent’s non-testifying experts; it does not limit document requests.

Auto Club Family Ins. Co. v. Ahner, 2007 WL 2480322 at *3 (E.D.La. Aug. 29, 2007) (internal citations removed)

Posted in 5th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Duty to Produce, E.D. La., Expert Witness, FRCP 26(a), FRCP 26(b), Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Wilkinson Jr. | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Thai Heng Chang; Court discusses documents produced across matters

Posted by rjbiii on September 16, 2008

The Court agrees generally that Defendant should not have to produce documents he has already produced, whether in another cause or not, but he may not simply refer Plaintiff to the other lawsuit with the general objection that he’s already produced responsive documents. Defendant must respond to each discovery request served in this case and identify each responsive document by Bates number or other identifying information that specifies the precise document. Of course, any responsive documents between March 22, 2007, and July 1, 2007, would not be previously produced in response to the subpoena, and therefore, shall now be produced within ten days of this date.

Infinite Energy, Inc. v. Thai Heng Chang, 2008 WL 4098329 at *2 (N.D.Fla. Aug. 29, 2008 ) (emphases in the original).

Posted in 11th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Discovery Requests, Duty to Produce | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Thai Heng Chang; Court orders immediate production of e-mail from previously undisclosed account

Posted by rjbiii on September 16, 2008

Post Process: The court granted Plaintiff’s motion to compel, and motion to impose sanctions for inadequate discovery. The court delayed determination of appropriate sanctions until a later date. Below is an excerpt of the opinion, discusses Defendant’s undisclosed yahoo e-mail account.

At issue are [inter alia]: emails from the account edsmith1818@yahoo.com…
Plaintiff contends that it only recently learned of another email account used by the Defendant that should have been identified in response to Interrogatory No. 2, which Plaintiff served upon Defendant on November 6, 2007. Plaintiff contends that Defendant should supplement his document production to include these emails, which it alleges contain highly relevant information crucial to the issues raised in this case.

Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Defendant used this specific email account to engage in the activities upon which this entire lawsuit is based. Defendant represents to Plaintiff and the Court that he cannot produce the emails because they have been destroyed by Yahoo! He offers a copy of a generic response from Yahoo! regarding deactivating accounts, but Plaintiff has attached to its motion a copy of a letter from Defendant’s counsel to Yahoo! regarding a subpoena served in the Georgia case for the hankchang138@yahoo.com account. Nothing in that letter indicates a problem with Yahoo! complying with a subpoena for emails in that account despite Defendant’s assertion that they had been deleted. Perhaps Yahoo! has a process for obtaining emails from deactivated accounts as well. Regardless, the Court does not at this time accept Defendant’s explanation that production of these documents is “impossible,” particularly given the important evidentiary value of these emails and the feeble offering by Defendant in support of his contention. The Court further finds that Defendant’s representation that he was being “completely truthful” when he did not identify this account because he knew it would be impossible to ultimately produce these emails, to be sanctionable. It will figure largely into the sanctions ultimately awarded in this matter if it is learned that Defendant’s failure to identify this account earlier is the cause of the alleged impossibility.

As an initial matter, Defendant shall immediately make all possible efforts to obtain the emails in account edmith1818@yahoo.com and shall then produce all documents in this account without further objection or delay…The Court will not accept Defendant’s position that he cannot produce these emails until assurance is given from an executive at Yahoo! responsible for such tasks that this request is indeed impossible.

Infinite Energy, Inc. v. Thai Heng Chang, 2008 WL 4098329 at *1 (N.D.Fla. Aug. 29, 2008 ).

Posted in 11th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Data Sources, Duty to Disclose, Duty to Produce, email, Magistrate Judge Allan Kornblum, N.D. Fla., Sanctions | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Nursing Home Pension Fund; Court discusses ‘legal control’ of evidence

Posted by rjbiii on September 15, 2008

[Requesting Party] additionally allege[s] that defendants failed to preserve or destroyed documents created in preparation for a book entitled Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle (“Softwar” ). The book was written by Matthew Symonds, an author and editor with The Economist, who conducted at least 135 hours of recorded interviews between March 2001 and August 2002 with defendant Ellison. In October 2006, plaintiffs moved to compel defendants to produce the transcripts and audio files of these Softwar interviews. Defendants argued that the materials were not in their custody or control, and Symonds also asserted that the materials were his sole property. On January 2, 2007, Special Master Infante determined that although such materials were in the physical possession of Symonds, Ellison had legal control of them pursuant to a contract between Symonds and Ellison. Winkler Decl. ex. 194. As a result, Special Master Infante ordered defendants to produce copies of “any interview notes, transcripts or tape recordings relating to the book.” Id. at 4. Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Symonds no longer had the materials in question, and it appears that Symonds may have discarded the laptop computer containing the transcripts and audio files after he learned of plaintiffs’ motion to compel.

Nursing Home Pension Fund v. Oracle Corp., 2008 WL 4093497 at *2 (N.D.Cal. Sept. 2, 2008).

Posted in 9th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Data Sources, Duty to Preserve, Duty to Produce, FRCP 34(a), Judge Susan Illston, N.D. Cal., Possession or Custody or Control Of Evidence | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: YouTube; Court Denies Motion to Compel Production of “Private” Videos and Related Data-For the Most Part

Posted by rjbiii on August 12, 2008

Private Videos and Related Data

YouTube.com users may override the website’s default setting–which makes newly added videos available to the public–by electing to mark as “private” the videos they post to the website. Plaintiffs move to compel production of copies of all those private videos, which can only be viewed by others authorized by the user who posted each of them, as well as specified data related to them.

Defendants are prohibited by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) (18 U.S.C. § 2510 et seq.) from disclosing to plaintiffs the private videos and the data which reveal their contents because ECPA § 2702(a)(2) requires that entities such as YouTube who provide “remote computing service to the public shall not knowingly divulge to any person or entity the contents” of any electronic communication stored on behalf of their subscribers, FN8 and ECPA § 2702 contains no exception for disclosure of such communications pursuant to civil discovery requests.

FN8:The prohibition against divulgence of stored subscriber communications set forth in ECPA § 2702(a)(2) applies only “if the provider is not authorized to access the contents of any such communications for purposes of providing any services other than storage or computer processing” (id. § 2702(a)(2)(B)), but defendants satisfy that condition here because their authorization to access and delete potentially infringing private videos is granted in connection with defendants’ provision of alleged storage services.

Plaintiffs claim that users have authorized disclosure of the contents of the private videos pursuant to ECPA § 2702(b)(3) (remote computing service providers “may divulge the contents of a communication * * * with the lawful consent of * * * the subscriber”) by assenting to the YouTube website’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, which contain provisions licensing YouTube to distribute user submissions (such as videos) in connection with its website and business, FN9 disclaiming liability for disclosure of user submissions, FN10 and notifying users that videos they divulge online in the public areas of the website may be viewed by the public.

FN11 None of those clauses can fairly be construed as a grant of permission from users to reveal to plaintiffs the videos that they have designated as private and chosen to share only with specified recipients.

FN9: “However, by submitting User Submissions to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive * * * license to * * * distribute * * * the User Submissions in connection with the YouTube Website and YouTube’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business.” This authorizes YouTube to post the video on the website; the privacy designation restricts to whom it may be shown.

FN10: “YouTube does not guarantee any confidentiality with respect to any User Submissions.”

FN11: The record shows that the provision of the Privacy Policy plaintiffs point to, which states that “Any videos that you submit to the YouTube Sites * * * may be viewed by the general public” refers to “personal information or video content that you voluntarily disclose online (on discussion boards, in messages and chat areas, within your playback or profile pages, etc.)” which “becomes publicly available.”

But the ECPA does not bar disclosure of non-content data about the private videos (e.g., the number of times each video has been viewed on YouTube.com or made accessible on a third-party website through an ’embedded’ link to the video). Plaintiffs argue that such data are relevant to show whether videos designated private are in fact shared with numerous members of the public and therefore not protected by the ECPA, and to then obtain discovery on their claim (supported by evidence) FN12 that users abuse YouTube’s privacy feature “to share infringing videos with any interested member of the public while evading detection by content owners.” It is not clear from this record whether plaintiffs’ interpretation of the ECPA is correct, but their view is colorable, as the statute’s legislative history states that “a subscriber who places a communication on a computer ‘electronic bulletin board,’ with a reasonable basis for knowing that such communications are freely made available to the public, should be considered to have given consent to the disclosure or use of the communication.” Plaintiffs need the requested non-content data so that they can properly argue their construction of the ECPA on the merits and have an opportunity to obtain discovery of allegedly infringing private videos claimed to be public.

FN12: Plaintiffs submitted a snapshot of a YouTube user’s web page entitled “THE_RUGRATS_CHANNEL” which states “Disclaimer: Rugrats_and all Rugrats_related items are a copyright of Viacom” and on which the user states:

WELCOME TO MY_RUGRATS_PAGE. Previously rbt200, this is my new channel. The old one got deleted so I thought I’d start again, but this time, it’s JUST_RUGRATS! A whole channel dedicated to this fantastic cartoon! I will be posting whole episodes over the coming weeks so be sure to subscribe or add me as a friend because they might be set to private.

Viacom Int’l Inc. v. YouTube Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50614 at *25-30 (S.D.N.Y. July 1, 2008 ) (internal citations removed).

Posted in 2nd Circuit, Case Blurbs, Discovery Requests, Duty to Produce, Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Judge Louis L. Stanton, Objections to Discovery Requests, Privacy, Relevance, S.D.N.Y, Scope of Discovery | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: YouTube; Court Discusses Production of Database Schemas

Posted by rjbiii on August 12, 2008

Database Schemas

Plaintiffs seek the schemas for the “Google Advertising” and “Google Video Content” databases. FN7. A schema is an electronic index that shows how the data in a database are organized by listing the database’s fields and tables, but not its underlying data.

FN7:Defendants have agreed to produce the schema for the “Claims” database.

A. Google Advertising Schema

Google earns most of its revenue from fees it charges advertisers to display advertisements on Google.com (the “AdWords” program) or on third party websites that participate in its “AdSense” program. Google stores data about each of the billions of advertising transactions made in connection with those programs in the Google Advertising database. The schema for that database “constitutes commercially sensitive information regarding Google’s advertising business”, the disclosure of which would permit others to profit without equivalent investment from the “years of refinement and thousands of person hours” of work Google spent selecting the numerous data points it tracks in connection with its advertising programs. Only trivial percentages of the fields and tables in the database “possibly relate to advertising revenue generated from advertisements run on YouTube,” and defendants have “already agreed to provide Plaintiffs with the small amount of YouTube-related data contained in the Google Advertising database.”

Plaintiffs argue that the schema is relevant to “show what Defendants could have or should have known about the extent to which their advertising revenues were associated with infringing content, and the extent to which Defendants had the ability to control, block or prevent advertising from being associated with infringing videos.”

However, given that plaintiffs have already been promised the only relevant data in the database, they do not need its confidential schema, which “itself provides a detailed to roadmap to how Google runs its advertising business,” to show whether defendants were on notice that their advertising revenues were associated with infringing videos, or that defendants decline to exercise their claimed ability to prevent such associations.

Therefore, the motion for production of the Google Advertising schema is denied.

B. Google Video Schema

By plaintiffs’ description the Google Video Content database stores “information Defendants collect regarding videos on the Google Video website, which is a video-sharing website, similar to YouTube, that is operated by Defendant Google.” The Google Video website has its own video library, but searches for videos on it will also access YouTube videos.

Plaintiffs argue that the schema for that database will reveal “The extent to which Defendants are aware of and can control infringements on Google Video” which “is in turn relevant to whether Defendants had ‘reason to know’ of infringements, or had the ability to control infringements, on YouTube, which they also own and which features similar content.” (plaintiffs’ italics). That states a sufficiently plausible showing that the schema is relevant to require its disclosure, there being no assertion that it is confidential or unduly burdensome to produce.

Therefore, the motion to compel production of the Google Video schema is granted.

Viacom Int’l Inc. v. YouTube Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50614 (S.D.N.Y. July 1, 2008 ) (internal citations removed).

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