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Case Blurb: Pension Comm. of the Univ. of Montreal Pension Plan; New Burden Shifting Test Articulated

Posted by rjbiii on March 1, 2010

To ensure that no party’s task is too onerous or too lenient, I am employing the following burden shifting test: When the spoliating party’s conduct is sufficiently egregious to justify a court’s imposition of a presumption of relevance and prejudice, or when the spoliating party’s conduct warrants permitting the jury to make such a presumption, the burden then shifts to the spoliating party to rebut that presumption. The spoliating party can do so, for example, by demonstrating that the innocent party had access to the evidence alleged to have been destroyed or that the evidence would not support the innocent party’s claims or defenses. If the spoliating party demonstrates to a court’s satisfaction that there could not have been any prejudice to the innocent party, then no jury instruction will be warranted, although a lesser sanction might still be required.

Pension Comm. of the Univ. of Montreal Pension Plan v. Banc of Am. Secs, LLC, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4546, at *23-24 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 15, 2010)

The case summary is here.

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Posted in 2nd Circuit, Burden of Proof, Case Blurbs, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, Relevance, Spoliation | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Mirbeau of Geneva Lake; Looking for Standardization of ESI Scope? Don’t.

Posted by rjbiii on December 29, 2009

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) allows parties to obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the claim or defense of any party. Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears to be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The Court has broad discretion when reviewing a discovery dispute and “should independently determine the proper course of discovery based upon the arguments of the parties.” The court should consider “the totality of the circumstances, weighing the value of material sought against the burden of providing it, and taking into account society’s interest in furthering the truth-seeking function in the particular case before the court.”

Mirbeau of Geneva Lake LLC v. City of Lake Geneva, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101104 at *2 (E.D. Wis. Oct. 15, 2009)(internal citations removed)(emphasis added).

Posted in 7th Circuit, Case Blurbs, E.D. Wis., FRCP 26(b), Judge J.P. Stadtmueller, Relevance, Scope of Discovery | Leave a Comment »

Case Summary: Scalera; Triggering Mechanism for Litigation Holds

Posted by rjbiii on December 15, 2009

Scalera v. Electrograph Sys., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91572 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 29, 2009).

Status: Plaintiff, an individual, sought sanctions against Defendants (a company and two individuals) for spoliation of evidence.

Factual Background: Plaintiff is a former employee of Defendants. Plaintiff asserted that prior to her employment by Defendants, she had suffered from “noticeable muscular weakness.” Initially diagnosed as Muscular Dystrophy, the diagnosis was changed to Pompe disease. Plaintiff claimed that she was disabled within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (ADA) and the New York Human Rights Law (NYHRL), and that Defendants failed to suitably accomodate her disabilities.

Procedural History: Plaintiff filed the original Complaint on January 4, 2008. She subsequently filed an Amended Complaint on September 30, 2008. Plaintiff served her First Request for Production of Documents upon Defendants on August 13, 2008. Plaintiff requested (1) all emails sent or received by Electrograph employees regarding Plaintiff’s medical condition, (2) all emails sent by Electrograph employees regarding Plaintiff’s request or need for any accommodation for her medical condition, (3) all emails sent on Electrograph’s “Inter-Office email system” to and from Plaintiff from 2005 to the present, “including any emails predating Plaintiff’s employment.” Plaintiff also requested all “backup and/or archive (computer) data which was generated by Defendants” and related to Plaintiff’s employment.

In response to the request, Defendants produced certain documents. Plaintiff characterized the production as consisting of a handful of emails relating to Ms. Scalera. According to Plaintiff, defendants stated that other emails were stored on backup tapes and that these tapes were corrupted and could not be restored. On November 4, 2008, Defendants sent Plaintiff’s counsel a letter stating that Electrograph had retained an outside vendor to restore the electronic data contained on the backup tapes. Defendants provided RDA Enterprises with a total of sixteen backup tapes. First, the vendor ran an inventory process to see if the tapes “met the criteria with restorable data.” Only two of the tapes met that criteria. However, the vendor was not able to restore the data on either of those two email backup tapes.

Argument: The court began by articulating the analytical framework found in Toussie v. County of Suffolk, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93988, 2007 WL 4565160, at *6 (E.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2007). A party seeking an adverse inference instruction as a sanction for the spoliation of evidence must establish that:
(1) “the party having control over the evidence had an obligation to preserve it at the time it was destroyed,”
(2) “the records were destroyed with a ‘culpable state of mind,'” and
(3) “the destroyed evidence was ‘relevant’ to the party’s claim or defense such that a reasonable trier of fact could find that it would support that claim or defense.”

Plaintiff argued that Defendants had a duty to preserve the destroyed information while asserted various theories as to when this duty attached. Plaintiff contended that Defendants’ obligation to preserve the information arose immediately following Plaintiff’s July 13, 2006 fall down the steps outside Electrograph’s side entrance. According to Plaintiff, Electrograph’s July 14, 2006 accident report acknowledges that “had a railing been installed, Ms. Scalera might not have fallen.” Plaintiff maintained that if Defendants were aware of Plaintiff’s disability, Defendants had a duty to accommodate that disability — “which would include installing railings, where necessary.” Thus, Plaintiff asserts that if her injury was caused by the absence of the railing, “Defendants should have known that they were potentially liable for failing to accommodate Ms. Scalera’s disability.” Thus, according to Plaintiff, immediately following her July 13, 2006 accident, Defendants knew or should have known that some of their internal employees’ emails would be relevant to a potential litigation and that Electrograph therefore was under a duty to preserve those emails.

Plaintiff also noted that within two weeks of her fall, she had hired an attorney and filed for worker’s compensation. Because, argued Plaintiff, the company was aware of the pending worker’s compensation case and retention of counsel, Defendants were under a duty to preserve documents relating to Ms. Scalera’s disability and injury.

In opposition to Plaintiff’s motion, Defendants stated that they first anticipated litigation regarding any claim of discrimination when they received the Notice of Claim from the EEOC,” which was sometime in late November or early December 2006. Defendants argue that a letter sent by Plaintiff’s attorney to the building landlord — not Electrograph — “making a claim for negligence in maintaining the stair and personal injury” did not put Electrograph on notice that Plaintiff intended to bring a discrimination claim against the company. Defendants also maintained that “plaintiff’s submission of a worker’s comp claim and retaining an attorney for worker’s comp, an employee’s exclusive remedy in New York, also led them to the conclusion that there would be no claim by plaintiff for discrimination.” Defendants added that Plaintiff’s worker’s compensation paperwork was filed in July 2006 and did not make any reference to discrimination.

The court stated that Plaintiff evidently did not address the letter mentioned above by Defendant’s in their written arguments and there was some confusion with this point in their oral arguments. Plaintiff claimed to regularly use her e-mail to communicate with coworkers and supervisors during the tenure of her employment, and this fact on its face establishes that failed to produce numerous documents covered by the discovery request. During oral argument, Plaintiff’s counsel highlighted a statement made by one of Plaintiff’s co-workers, Carolyn Reutter, that emails she received on her Electrograph email system “would stay in her inbox . . . unless she deleted it or the technical support employees purged the emails,” and that this apparently only happened “once every couple of years.”

The Internal Support Manager of Electrograph’s IT department stated that “documents can be stored locally on the hard drives of individual computers assigned to specific employees at Electrograph,” and that such documents “may or may not also be backed up as ‘ESI,’ depending on whether the document was created on the network or only locally at a particular end-user’s computer.” Plaintiff concluded, therefore, that there must have been relevant emails exchanged between Electrograph employees in the relevant time period that were not produced by Defendants.

Plaintiff also pointed to specific examples that “proved” the failure to produce. Plaintiff submitted two e-mails she claimed were not produced in whole. Plaintiff further argued that one of those emails is clearly a “string email,” but Defendants did not “produce the underlying email correspondence. Plaintiff asserted that although Defendants touted their production of emails regarding their provision of a raised chair to Plaintiff as an accommodation for her physical condition, that Plaintiff was the only party producing such e-mail; Defendants failed to produce any Plaintiff continued by claiming that the hard drive on the computer of Defendant Rose Ann Gordon, the former Director of Human Resources for Electrograph, and the computer Plaintiff used at work, were wiped clean because (and according to an affidavit filed by Defendants) once an employee left Electrograph, all data on the hard-drive of the computer assigned to such employee was removed.

Defendants countered that despite all ESI was backed up to tape on a daily basis, although documents stored on local hard drives might not have been backed up, and they were unaware that this material would not be available (remember that the outside vendor was unable to restore data from any of the back-up tapes). With respect to Ms. Gordon’s hard drive, Defendants essentially argued that no relevant documents resided on the drive prior to wiping. Defendants granted that the emails referring to the provision of a raised chair were produced by Defendant but noted that those emails predated the start of Plaintiff’s employment and were made after having extended an offer for employment to Plaintiff but before she had begun working for the company.

Discussion:
The court concluded that Defendant’s obligation to preserve relevant emails arose as of the time Defendants received Plaintiff’s EEOC Charge. The court noted that the general rule that an employee’s disability must be accomodated where the disability is obvious or otherwise known to the employer without notice from the employee. Whether specific accomodations were requested by the Plaintiff was in dispute, and Plaintiff’s claims that a hand-rail had been requested at the spot where she then fell, should have alerted Defendants to possible pending litigation. The court dismissed their arguments to the contrary as pushing logic beyond the boundary of reasonableness.

The court found that the filing of a worker’s compensation claim by Plaintiff did not trigger a duty to preserve. The court did not find “controlling” Defendants’ argument that Plaintiff’s choice to bring a claim under worker’s compensation implied that she would not be bringing a claim under the ADA. The court stated that Plaintiff had failed to point to case law that supported the proposition that an employer should reasonably anticipate a forthcoming disability discrimination action each time an employee files a worker’s compensation claim in circumstances such as those in the instant matter. Finally, the court noted that nothing in the worker’s compensation forms completed by Plaintiff indicated that she had requested a handrail.

As to Plaintiff’s contention that the ADA required the retention of certain documents, the court cited Byrnie v. Town of Cromwell, 243 F.3d 93 (2d Cir. 2001) for the proposition that where a party has violated an EEOC record-retention regulation, a violation of that regulation can amount to a breach of duty necessary to justify a spoliation inference in an employment discrimination case. After examining the language in the Act, the court ruled:

According to the regulations, therefore, upon their receipt of Plaintiff’s EEOC Charge, Defendants were under an obligation to preserve Plaintiff’s “personnel or employment record” as that term is defined in the regulation. The regulation also makes clear that Defendants’ duty did not cease upon their provision of Plaintiff’s HR file to the EEOC during their initial investigation.

The court next reviewed Plaintiff’s arguments concerning Ms. Scalera’s (plaintiff’s) “wiped” hard drive. It quickly dismissed these claims by reasoning that because the “wiping” occurred prior to the notice of the EEOC charge, Defendants were not under a duty to preserve.

The court then moved to the subject of Ms. Gordon’s hard drive, which also had been wiped. The destruction of data in this situation occurred nearly two months after Defendants had received notice of the EEOC charge. The court stated that Defendants’ argument that the destruction of Defendant Gordon’s hard drive did not amount to a breach of a duty to preserve because Defendant Gordon printed all relevant documents and maintained them in Plaintiff’s Human Resources file does not get them off the hook. The court cited Treppel v. Biovail Corp., 233 F.R.D. 363 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) for the proposition that permitting the downgrading of data to a less accessible form — which systematically hinders future discovery by making the recovery of information more costly and burdensome — is a violation of the preservation obligation. The court reasoned that Plaintiff had the right to test the accuracy of Defendants’ representations of facts and is not obligated to simply take Defendants’ word for it that all relevant emails and documents that were on Defendant Gordon’s hard drive actually made their way into Plaintiff’s personnel file.

On the matter of other emails, the court returned to the subject of two “partial” emails that Defendants produced, concluding that these documents fell within the meaning of a “personnel or employment record” that should have been preserved for one year after their creation. If Defendants had executed on that duty, then a duty to preserve would have prevented their destruction once the EEOC charge had been filed.

With respect to those e-mails produced by Plaintiff, but not Defendant, the court was not convinced by Defendants arguments that these had been generated prior to Plaintiff’s employment. The court found that the ADA regulations would have required Defendants to preserve these emails for one year from the time they were created, namely, in September 2005. Even if Defendants had done so, the obligation to preserve these emails would have expired in September 2006 — a month and a half before Plaintiff’s EEOC Charge was filed. Therefore, the court concluded that Defendants had not breached a duty to preserve.

The first element of the analysis, the court stated, was established. However, in turning to the second element, the court articulated the rule that “even where the preservation obligation has been breached, sanctions will only be warranted if the party responsible for the loss had a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” In its examination of the facts, the court concluded that Defendants had been negligent, though not grossly negligent. Defendants, said the court, took no active steps to preserve electronic documents until early 2007, almost two months after the filing of the EEOC charge. Key facts that swayed the court included:

  • Searches of key employees’ hard drives were either never completed at all or were not completed for some time after the EEOC Charge was received.
  • The message was never communicated to the IT department to search the hard drives of two key custodians.
  • And finally, no formal written litigation hold was ever implemented.

The court cited Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC, 229 F.R.D. 422, 432 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) in listed the steps expected from parties under a duty to preserve:
(1) issue a litigation hold at the outset of litigation or whenever litigation is reasonably anticipated,
(2) clearly communicate the preservation duty to “key players,” and
(3) “instruct all employees to produce electronic copies of the their relevant active files” and “separate relevant backup tapes from others.”

The court also repeated Zubulake’s admonition that one of the primary reasons that electronic data is lost is ineffective communication with information technology personnel.

In turning to the final element, the court went off on a different direction, finding that Plaintiff had ultimately failed to demonstrate that any destroyed emails would have been favorable to her position. The court noted that relevance may be inferred if the spoliator is shown to have a sufficiently culpable state of mind, such as acting in bad faith or gross negligence. However, the court had already determined that Defendant was merely negligent. The court further found that Plaintiff had not submitted extrinsic evidence tending to demonstrate that the destroyed emails would have been favorable to her case, leaving the third and final element as not being established.

Result: Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions was denied.

Posted in 2nd Circuit, Back Up Tapes, Case Summary, Data Retention Practices, Duty to Preserve, E.D.N.Y., Litigation Hold, Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson, Reasonable Anticipation of Litigation, Relevance, Sanctions, Spoliation | 2 Comments »

Case Summary: MFormation Technologies; Court looks at how data is ‘Ordinarily maintained’

Posted by rjbiii on November 27, 2009

Espy v. Mformation Techs., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81832 (D. Kan. Sept. 9, 2009)

Factual Background: Plaintiff (Brian Espy) brought this action to recover commissions for sales made while in the employ of defendant company (Mformation). Plaintiff resigned from the company because of disagreements over the method of calculating those commissions. There was also a dispute regarding the value of the accounts for which the commissions would be paid.

In late 2007 or early 2008, defendant company was positioning itself for sale. As part of that process, the company established a secure website to which it published much confidential financial information about itself. Items published included such things as articles of incorporation, board and stockholder meeting minutes, past financial statements, and future financial forecasts of revenues. Mformation limited access to this website to companies and individuals who obtained a secure password from Mformation. The website collected information as to who entered the website and when, not only as to the company that was making the contact, but more specifically the individuals who accessed the site.

Plaintiff contends that the company would have had to have include information on the value of the Clearwire account (the largest of Plaintiff’s accounts for which he sought commissions), and he sought to obtain names of prospective purchases who may have been privy to this information. During deposition, Mformation CEO Mark Edwards refused to provide this information, claiming that the information was privileged and confidential, and that the request was not made to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Defendants did, however, state that “all of the representations made to all the third parties are contained in a CD of the secure website which Defendants finally located and provided to the court for in camera inspection.”

Before the court were multiple motions by plaintiff to compel production, and a motion that sanctions be imposed for failure to produce documents.


Identity of Third Parties & continuation of Edwards’ deposition

Defendants represented to the court that all information provided to prospective third-party purchasers about the value of the company was located on the secure website, and that no further materials existed from follow-up discussions or meetings. Certain emails which were attached as exhibits convinced the court that these representations were false, despite defendants’ continued assertions that of the accuracy of those statements. In light of this, the court required defendants to produce to Plaintiff the CD containing the contents of the secure website and certain hard copy documents that were previously produced to the court for in camera inspection.

Defendants argued that because these materials were confidential and proprietary, they should be allowed to produce a redacted version of the material, or have a special master appointed at Defendants’ expense to govern this particular dispute. The court disagreed, however, saying that while it was understood that these materials were confidential, they were also dated, as none of the information includes current financial information or projections.

The court also granted Plaintiff the right to depose any prospective third party purchaser had any direct communications with Mformation or its representative. The court accepted defendant’s offer to produce its 30(b)(6) witness for a deposition, scheduled earlier but cancelled due to that witness’s illness. Finally, in light of the fact that it appeared that responsive data associated with third party prospective purchasers had not been produced by defendant, the court ordered defendant to go back and review its files and records and produce anything it missed first time around.


Documents presented to board of directors concerning Clearwire contract

The court noted that it appeared that documents associated with the Clearwire contract not necessarily involving representations to third parties. The court stated that such documents presented to it for in camera review, in the form of a presentation made to the board of directors during a meeting of that group. Defendants argue that they produced any relevant documents in this category, but the judge noted that they presumably did not produce this document, due to its presence in the in camera review. The court ordered the defendants to produce any such documents that might have been missed in previous productions.

Financial records of Mformation and receipt of payments from contracts booked by Plaintiff

Plaintiffs requested that all documents related to the financial condition of Mformation between the months of December 2007 through May 2009. Defendant’s objected that this request was overly broad and burdensome, and not calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Plaintiffs argued that it was entitled to the information because of Defendant’s position (either explicit or implied) that it cannot pay certain commissions. The court agreed with Defendants that the request was extremely broad and could encompass a substantial volume of records, and concluded that plaintiffs reason were not sufficient to mandate a production of all documents encompassed in the request. The court decided to require all financial information concerning the receipt of payments from all contracts for which Plaintiff is seeking commissions. The rub here is that Defendant claimed that it had already produced these documents. The court seemed to express its concern about being able to identify these documents within the large document collection already produced to plaintiff.

Plaintiff complained that defendant’s documents were produced in electronic format, without bates stamps and not categorized in response to the specific requests or interrogatories and that this caused Plaintiff difficulty in accessing and reviewing these records. Defendants responded to this complaint by representing that the documents were produced in the manner in which they are stored and kept in the usual course of the business.

The court then discussed the interpretation of FRCP 34, which allows production as documents are maintained in the usual course of the producing party’s business. The court noted that in attempting to define the requirements that should be place on a producing party who chooses to produce documents in the manner they are normally maintained, the courts have attempted to balance the burden on the respective parties. Generally, courts have concluded that simply dumping a mass of documents on the requesting party may not satisfy the rule’s requirements, even though the undifferentiated mass of documents are in the same form as maintained by the producing party. The court concluded that Defendants should be required to specifically identify, by index or otherwise, those specific financial records that relate to receipts of payments from all contracts for which Plaintiff is seeking commissions, and to specify, by index or otherwise, any financial records of Mformation, from December 2007 through May 2009, that specifically relate to treatment of those contracts, specifically including the Clearwire contract. The court also ordered Defendants to produce documents associated with a separated, but related, request to produce certain financial records not previously provided, some of which were unavailable at the time of the request.

Plaintiff’s Request for Sanctions
The court then turned its attention to Plaintiff’s two motions for sanctions. First, Plaintiff requested that he be reimbursed for all costs associated with discovery from Clearwire, including costs for service of a subpoena to Clearwire and the costs for any deposition of Clearwire, including travel to Seattle, court reporter fees and attorneys fees at $ 250 per hour. Plaintiff also sought all expenses associated with the continuation of the depositions of [Mformation CEO] Mark Edwards and the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Defendant , including travel to Defendant’s location in New Jersey, court reporter costs and attorneys fees.

In its second motion, Plaintiff repeated its earlier requests, Plaintiff also sought an order striking Defendants’ responsive pleadings and entering judgment in Plaintiff’s favor and the costs associated with the filing of pleadings concerning the discovery dispute.

The court reiterated its determination that that Defendant be required to produce Mark Edwards for the continuation of his deposition and to produce Mformation’s Rule 30(b)(6) witness for deposition, were to be taken at Defendants’ cost, and that all travel and court reporter’s expenses for both of these depositions were the responsibility of Defendants. The court also ordered Defendants to pay attorneys’ fee for the time spent in completing the deposition of Mark Edwards, capped at $1,250.

The court, however, did not grant Plaintiff’s its request for attorneys fee for conducting the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Mformation, as this deposition was merely delayed due to the witness’s illness. This is especially true when one considers that Defendants have voluntarily offered to bring the 30(b)(6) witness to Kansas City for deposition. The court also ordered Defendants to pay he costs and attorneys fees required to file such motions. The court denied the request for all other expenses, without prejudice for renewal in the future.

Motions for additional sanctions were denied.

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Summary, D. Kan., Data Dump, Discovery Requests, FRCP 30(b)(6), FRCP 34, Magistrate Judge Donald W. Bostwick, Objections to Discovery Requests, Overly Broad Request, Relevance, Sanctions | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Ahner; Objection on Relevance due to Form of Production Requested not Valid

Posted by rjbiii on October 17, 2008

[I]t is not a valid ground for objection that relevant, non-privileged, electronic data can be produced in paper form, when the requesting party has specified production in an electronic format.

Auto Club Family Ins. Co. v. Ahner, 2007 WL 2480322 at *4 (E.D.La. Aug. 29, 2007) (internal citations removed)

Posted in 5th Circuit, Case Blurbs, E.D. La., Form of Production, Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Wilkinson Jr., Relevance | 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 Denies Motion to Compel Production of Source Code for Video ID Program

Posted by rjbiii on August 12, 2008

Plaintiffs also move to compel production of another undisputed trade secret, the computer source code for the newly invented “Video ID” program. Using that program, copyright owners may furnish YouTube with video reference samples, which YouTube will use to search for and locate video clips in its library which have characteristics sufficiently matching those of the samples as to suggest infringement. That program’s source code is the product of “approximately 50,000 man hours of engineering time and millions of dollars of research and development costs”, and maintaining its confidentiality is essential to prevent others from creating competing programs without any equivalent investment, and to bar users who wish to post infringing content onto YouTube.com from learning ways to trick the Video ID program and thus “escape detection.”

Plaintiffs claim that they need production of the Video ID source code to demonstrate what defendants “could be doing — but are not — to control infringement” with the Video ID program. However, plaintiffs can learn how the Video ID program works from use and observation of its operation, and examination of pending patent applications, documentation and white papers regarding Video ID (id.), all of which are available to them. If there is a way to write a program that can identify and thus control infringing videos, plaintiffs are free to demonstrate it, with or without reference to the way the Video ID program works. But the question is what infringement detection operations are possible, not how the Video ID source code makes it operate as it does. The notion that examination of the source code might suggest how to make a better method of infringement detection is speculative. Considered against its value and secrecy, plaintiffs have not made a sufficient showing of need for its disclosure.

Therefore, the motion to compel production of the Video ID code is denied.

Viacom Int’l Inc. v. YouTube Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50614, 11-13 (S.D.N.Y. July 1, 2008 )

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

Case Blurb: YouTube; Denying Motion Compelling the Production of Source Code to Opponents

Posted by rjbiii on August 12, 2008

Plaintiffs move jointly pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 37 to compel [Defendants] to produce certain electronically stored information and documents, including a critical trade secret: the computer source code which controls both the YouTube.com search function and Google’s internet search tool “Google.com”. [Defendants] cross-move pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c) for a protective order barring disclosure of that search code, which they contend is responsible for Google’s growth “from its founding in 1998 to a multi-national presence with more than 16,000 employees and a market valuation of roughly $ 150 billion”, and cannot be disclosed without risking the loss of the business. Viacom Int’l Inc. v. YouTube Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50614, 7-8 (S.D.N.Y. July 1, 2008 ) (internal citations removed).

YouTube and Google maintain that “no source code in existence today can distinguish between infringing and non-infringing video clips — certainly not without the active participation of rights holders”, and Google engineer Amitabh Singhal declares under penalty of perjury that:

The search function employed on the YouTube website was not, in any manner, designed or modified to facilitate the location of allegedly infringing materials. The purpose of the YouTube search engine is to allow users to find videos they are looking for by entering text-based search terms. In some instances, the search service suggests search terms when there appears to be a misspelling entered by the user and attempts to distinguish between search terms with multiple meanings. Those functions are automated algorithms that run across Google’s services and were not designed to make allegedly infringing video clips more prominent in search results than non-infringing video clips. Indeed, Google has never sought to increase the rank or visibility of allegedly infringing material over non-infringing material when developing its search services.

Id. at *9-10 (internal citations removed).

Plaintiffs argue that the best way to determine whether those denials are true is to compel production and examination of the search code. Nevertheless, YouTube and Google should not be made to place this vital asset in hazard merely to allay speculation. A plausible showing that YouTube and Google’s denials are false, and that the search function can and has been used to discriminate in favor of infringing content, should be required before disclosure of so valuable and vulnerable an asset is compelled.

Nor do plaintiffs offer evidence supporting their conjecture that the YouTube.com search function might be adaptable into a program which filters out infringing videos. Plaintiffs wish to “demonstrate what Defendants have not done but could have” to prevent infringements, (plaintiffs’ italics), but there may be other ways to show that filtering technology is feasible FN2 and reasonably could have been put in place. Id. at *10 (internal citations removed).

FN2: In the Viacom action:

Viacom is currently using fingerprinting technology provided by a company called Auditude in order to identify potentially infringing clips of Viacom’s copyrighted works on the YouTube website. The fingerprinting technology automatically creates digital “fingerprints” of the audio track of videos currently available on the YouTube website and compares those fingerprints against a reference library of digital fingerprints of Viacom’s copyrighted works. As this comparison is made, the fingerprinting technology reports fingerprint matches, which indicate that the YouTube clip potentially infringes one of Viacom’s copyrighted works.

Finally, the protections set forth in the stipulated confidentiality order are careful and extensive, but nevertheless not as safe as nondisclosure. There is no occasion to rely on them, without a preliminary proper showing justifying production of the search code.

Therefore, the cross-motion for a protective order is granted and the motion to compel production of the search code is denied. Id. at *11.

Posted in 2nd Circuit, Case Blurbs, Discovery Requests, Duty to Produce, FRCP 26(c), FRCP 37, Judge Louis L. Stanton, Objections to Discovery Requests, Relevance, S.D.N.Y, Scope of Discovery, Search Engine Technology, Source Code, Technology, Tools, Trade Secrets | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Cunningham; Relevancy, and Who has the Burden to Prove it

Posted by rjbiii on July 21, 2008

[P]ursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), any discovery sought must be relevant. Relevancy is broadly construed, and a request for discovery should be considered if there is “any possibility” that the information sought may be relevant to the claim or defense of any party. See, e.g., Sheldon v. Vermonty, 204 F.R.D. 679, 689-90 (D.Kan.2001). “When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting the discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevancy by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the scope of relevance as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure .” Simpson v. University of Colorado, 220 F.R.D. 354, 350 (D.Colo.2004) (citations omitted). Further, the objecting party cannot “sustain this burden with boilerplate claims that the requested discovery is oppressive, burdensome or harassing.” Id. (citation omitted). However, when a request for discovery is overly broad on its face or when relevancy is not readily apparent, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.

Cunningham v. Standard Fire Ins. Co., 2008 WL 2668301 (D. Colo. July 1, 2008 )

Posted in 10th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Colo., Discovery Requests, FRCP 26(b), Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix, Objections to Discovery Requests, Overly Broad Request, Relevance | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benefirst; Good Cause Analysis-Fourth & Fifth Factors

Posted by rjbiii on December 28, 2007

[Ed.-The court found that medical claim forms, requested by Plaintiff, would not be reasonably accessible. It then launched into an analysis to determine whether plaintiffs proved that “good cause” existed to compel production notwithstanding the accessibility issue. This blurb is from the analysis of seven factors. These are factors four and five: The likelihood of finding relevant, responsive information that cannot be obtained from other, more easily accessed sources; and Predictions as to the importance and usefulness of the further information;]

I agree with the Plaintiffs that the requested claim forms and medical bills are clearly an integral part of the litigation; the requested information goes not only to BeneFirst’s culpability, but also to the amount of damages, if any, to which the Plaintiffs may be entitled. There can be no serious contention that the information is not highly relevant. In fact, it is difficult to imagine how this case could be prosecuted or defended without the claims forms and attendant bills. As previously found, they are not available from any other source (a determination which is uncontroverted).

These factors favor the Plaintiffs.

Posted in 1st Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Mass., Discovery Requests, Duty to Produce, FRCP 26(b), Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hillman, Relevance | Leave a Comment »