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Anonymity and the Demands of Civil Procedure in Music Downloading Lawsuits

64 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2007 Last revised: 4 Apr 2015

Joshua Dickman

affiliation not provided to SSRN


The internet has spawned a vast amount of anonymous online activity, both good and bad. On the one hand, cyber-anonymity encourages the open exchange of ideas and creative expression; on the other, it protects improper and illegal behavior such as cyber-stalking, defamation, and copyright violations. This Article, through the prism of music downloading lawsuits, examines the unexpected impact that courts' pretrial procedural rulings have in preserving internet anonymity and policing improper online conduct. Specifically, the Article addresses issues of personal jurisdiction and misjoinder that arise in the typical music downloading lawsuit, which record companies bring against multitudes of anonymous "John Doe" defendants for downloading music that they did not purchase. The Article focuses on the importance of when courts choose to address these issues of personal jurisdiction and misjoinder and examines whether courts are correctly choosing to defer ruling on the issues until after the Does' true identities are revealed. The Article ultimately concludes that while courts are correctly waiting to rule on the question of personal jurisdiction, courts are incorrectly deferring the question of misjoinder, at a substantial cost to the government and in disregard of the anonymous expressive component of the Does' downloading activity.

Keywords: joinder, misjoinder, personal jurisdiction, music downloading, file sharing, John Doe, anonymity

Suggested Citation

Dickman, Joshua, Anonymity and the Demands of Civil Procedure in Music Downloading Lawsuits. Tulane Law Review, Vol. 82, No. 3, 2008 . Available at SSRN:

Joshua Dickman (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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