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Google Must Reveal Nine Months of Gmail IP Address Data; SCA Challenge Rejected

Friday, April 12, 2013
A defendant in a copyright infringement proceeding may subpoena from Google Inc. nine months' worth of internet protocol address information linked to a plaintiff's Gmail account, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled March 21 (Obodai v. Indeed Inc., N.D. Cal., No. 3:13-mc-80027-EMC, motion to quash granted in part 3/21/13).

A magistrate judge rejected the plaintiff's Stored Communications Act-based challenge to the disclosure of his IP address information. The court held that the request for a list of all IP addresses that have accessed the Gmail account sought only noncontent subscriber information, which Google could disclose pursuant to the SCA, 18 U.S.C. §2703.

This discovery dispute arose in a copyright infringement lawsuit, in which the plaintiff blogger contended that the defendant, the operator of the Indeed.com job-search site, infringed his copyrights by allowing a third party to post a resume including the plaintiff's copyrighted works.

Indeed sought to subpoena the IP address information from Google, contending that it was relevant to its theory that the plaintiff posted the copyrighted content under a pseudonym.

“This information is not considered to be content-based, and so may be produced in response to a civil subpoena pursuant to the SCA[,]” the court held.


Other Requests Modified to Exclude 'Content.'
Indeed also sought other categories of information, including “All documents sufficient to Identify all individuals and/or entities associated with the e-mail account” and “All Documents relating to any individual(s) who created, accessed and/or used the email address … .”

Indeed defined “documents” as including emails, communications, and correspondence.

Indeed's broad definition of “documents” could include content-based information, which electronic communications service providers are barred from divulging under the SCA, 18 U.S.C. §2701.

“A plain reading of Indeed's subpoena suggests that they are seeking the contents of e-mails and other communications that are protected by the SCA[,]” the court concluded.

In its opposition, Indeed contended that it only sought information regarding the plaintiff's registration of his email account, including name, address, telephone numbers, and other identifying information, as well as IP addresses used by the email account holder.

The court modified the subpoena to include only noncontent information, including “subscriber information.” The SCA permits service providers to divulge subscriber information “to any person other than a governmental entity[,]” 18 U.S.C. § 2702(c)(6).

Under that section, Google was authorized to release information about the plaintiff's Gmail account, including contact information and IP address data.

The plaintiff represented himself. Indeed was represented by Howard H. Weller of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, New York.


Text is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Obodai_v_Indeed_Inc_Docket_No_313mc80027_ND_Cal_Feb_07_2013_Court/1.

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