Case Report – RAM preservation order affirmed

1 Sep

On August 24th, the United States District Court for the Central District of California affirmed a magistrate’s order that required the defendant in a copyright infringement action to preserve and produce data stored temporarily in a computer’s Random Access Memory or “RAM.”

The defendant operates a website that allows users to download files that are used to search and download video files. It did not log individuals’ IP addresses or instruct its third-party service provider to log IP addresses but these addresses, which can be used to identify users, were stored temporarily in RAM. The plaintiffs sued the defendant for contributing to and inducing copyright infringement and requested production of IP address logs.

In May, a magistrate ordered the defendant to start logging IP addresses and to routinely produce them in masked form and in a manner that would allow the plaintiffs to identify the regular users of the defendant’s service. In affirming the magistrate’s award, the Court simply reasoned that data stored in RAM is “stored” within the meaning of the United States Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. On the burden of preserving data from RAM, it made this somewhat comforting yet non-committal statement:

In response to amici’s concerns over the potentially devastating impact of this decision on the record-keeping obligations of businesses and individuals, the Court notes that this decision does not impose an additional burden on any website operator or party outside of this case. It simply requires that the defendants in this case, as part of this litigation, after the issuance of a court order, and following a careful evaluation of the burden to these defendants of preserving and producing the specific information requested in light of its relevance and the lack of other available means to obtain it, begin preserving and subsequently produce a particular subset of the data in RAM under Defendants’ control.

The Court also rejected a number of the defendant’s arguments related to its users’ privacy.

Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. v. Bunnel (24 August 2007, Dist. Ct. California).

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