California Court Resolves Discovery Dispute in Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" YouTube Case
Betsy Goldman | Bloomberg Law
In February 2007, plaintiff videotaped her children dancing to the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy” and uploaded the recording to YouTube.com. Amended Complaint, Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., No. 07-cv-03783 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 15, 2007). Later that year, defendants demanded that YouTube remove the video from the website because it allegedly infringed on a copyright they owned and administered. Id. Plaintiff demanded that the video be reposted, arguing that it did not infringe on defendants’ copyright. Id. She subsequently sued defendants for misrepresentation of copyright claims, intentional interference with contract, and declaratory relief. Id.
During discovery, the Court issued an order determining that plaintiff waived the attorney-client privilege with respect to communications regarding her motives for suing defendants and certain of her factual allegations. The Court had found that plaintiff waived the attorney-client privilege based upon statements she made to third parties in Gmail chats and blogs as well as statements she made during her own deposition. The order directed plaintiff to produce materials reflecting attorney-client communications on these topics.
Defendants contended that plaintiff took an “unreasonably narrow view” of her obligations pursuant to the order, alleging that she improperly withheld documents and redacted information. They moved for the Court to find plaintiff in contempt and to require her to produce additional materials. They also sought sanctions under Rule 37(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Communications Regarding Publicity
Defendants argued that the Court’s order required plaintiff to produce all communications concerning any publicity about the case. Plaintiff, however, interpreted the order as requiring her to produce all publicity-related communications reflecting her or her counsel’s motives for filing suit, which would include only communications concerning the initial publicity surrounding the litigation. She thus refused to produce publicity-related communications which she believed did not reflect her motives for filing suit.
The Court concluded that defendants’ interpretation of the prior discovery order was too broad. According to the Court, the order required plaintiff to produce only material that was related to the possible motives for her instituting the litigation, rather than requiring her to produce communications concerning any publicity surrounding the case. Nevertheless, it agreed with defendants that the documents reflecting plaintiff’s motives were not necessarily limited to those concerning the initial publicity after the complaint was filed. It therefore explained that “plaintiff shall conduct a diligent inquiry and reasonable search and produce all publicly-related communications that reflect her or her counsel’s motives for pursuing this litigation, including any such communications pertaining to publicity that occurred later in the litigation.”
Communications Regarding Factual Allegations
Defendants argued that the Court had found a broad waiver as to the subject matter of the statements plaintiff made during her deposition and that she was thus required to produce all communications relating to the issues of infringement or noninfringement. Plaintiff argued, however, that the order was limited to attorney-client discussions about the specific statements that formed the basis for her waiver.
The Court interpreted the discovery order to mean that plaintiff waived the privilege with respect to specific factual allegations only. It explained that “[n]owhere in [the] order does [the judge] say that plaintiff waived the privilege as to all communications concerning infringement or noninfringement generally.”
The Court ultimately denied defendants’ request for sanctions, explaining that “[d]efendants have not carried their burden of establishing by clear and convincing evidence that plaintiff’s conduct was not the product of a good faith or reasonable interpretation of [the judge's] order.”
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