Court Ruling on E-Discovery Postponed to Aug. 16

The decision will be crucial to whether data housed in RAM is considered e-discoverable in litigation.

A court hearing about whether data residing temporarily in a computers random access memory is considered eligible for e-discovery in litigation, initially scheduled for July 16, was postponed to Aug. 16 due to a scheduling conflict.

Currently, under Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, data described as "electronically stored information" can be used in federal lawsuits. The focal point of the case is whether computer-generated log data, kept in RAM temporarily until overwritten or the computer is shut down, is considered "electronically stored information" eligible for e-discovery.

The case, Columbia Pictures Industries v. Justin Bunnell, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Los Angeles) before Judge Florence-Marie Cooper. The Motion Picture Association of America—which owns no copyrights but offers support to its members—is backing Columbia Pictures with its legal team.

Bunnell is the founder of TorrentSpy, a search engine similar to YouTube.com that indexes and presents videos made available to the public using the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol. BitTorrent, created by entrepreneur Bram Cohen, is an open-source software application that enables fast downloading of large files, such as audio and video.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about the Motion Picture Association being accused of hacking.

Users of TorrentSpy initially put up only homemade films, copies of television and news shows, and other innocuous videos. In November 2005, Cohen made a deal with the MPAA barring users of BitTorrent from trading unauthorized copies of materials owned by the members of the MPAA, which includes virtually all the major motion picture studios.

But the BitTorrent-MPAA policing on Internet sites—including TorrentSpy—didnt work. When copyrighted movies and other commercial videos began showing up on the site, TorrentSpy was sued in February 2006 by Columbia Pictures for copyright infringement and was accused of contributing to the theft of feature films.

A May 29 ruling by Los Angeles federal magistrate Jacqueline Chooljian against TorrentSpy would require TorrentSpy—and potentially all Internet search engines—to create and store all logs of its users activities as part of electronic discovery obligations in a civil lawsuit.

TorrentSpy said in court documents that it has never logged its visitors IP (Internet protocol) addresses, because the practice is contrary to its own privacy policy. Nonetheless, Chooljian ordered TorrentSpy to activate logging and turn the logged data over to Columbia upon its request.

On June 8, Chooljian put aside her ruling to allow TorrentSpy to present its appeal, which now will be heard Aug. 16.

Sources close to the case told eWEEK that Judge Cooper may have decided she needed some extra time to make a fair ruling. The official line from the court clerk was that a scheduling conflict caused the postponement.

"That [needing extra time] is certainly on the list of things that could happen to a judges schedule," Tom Moore, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based attorney who is contributing to the defendants case, told eWEEK.

"Judges do that all the time. Other kinds of things can happen to postpone a case, though. Another trial may have run long, or a jury may have deliberated longer than expected, or maybe shes in the midst of changing law clerks."

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...