The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimba M. Wood, U.S.D.J.:
On May 11, 2010, this Court granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on their claims against Defendants LimeWire LLC ("LW"), Lime Group LLC ("Lime Group"), and Mark Gorton (collectively, "Defendants") for secondary copyright infringement. The Court found that Defendants induced users of the LimeWire online file-sharing program ("LimeWire") to infringe Plaintiffs' copyrights. In the Court's Opinion and Order (as amended on May 25, 2010), the Court detailed this case's procedural and factual background, familiarity with which is assumed. See Dkt. Entry No. 223. The litigation is now in the damage phase, with a trial on damages scheduled for May 2, 2011. For the past few months, the parties have been engaged in vigorous discovery concerning Plaintiffs' potential statutory damage awards. The instant dispute concerns the scope of damage-related discovery to which Defendants are entitled.
Four non-party licensees of Plaintiffs' copyrights -- MySpace, Inc. ("MySpace"); iMesh, Inc. and MusicLab, LLC ("iMesh"); Yahoo!, Inc. ("Yahoo!"); and Google, Inc. ("Google")*fn1
(collectively, the "Licensees") -- have filed objections to Magistrate Judge Freeman's Order of January 31, 2011, compelling their production of "any communications, both internal and with Plaintiffs, relating to their licenses with Plaintiffs and/or relating to LimeWire, to the extent those communications reflect information regarding Plaintiffs' conduct, positions, or views about online licensing or about LimeWire." See Dkt. Entry No. 443, at 6 (hereinafter "January 31 Order"). Although the procedural background varies slightly with respect to each Licensee, a general overview follows:
In late September and early October of 2010, Defendants served subpoenas on a number of non-party licensees of Plaintiffs' copyrights, including MySpace, iMesh, and Yahoo!. Through the subpoenas, Defendants sought three categories of documents from the non-party licensees:
1. Copies of license agreements between Plaintiffs and the non-party licensees;
2. Reports of payments made by the non-party licensees to Plaintiffs pursuant to such license agreements; and
3. The non-party licensees' communications (both internal and external) relating to their license agreements with Plaintiffs and/or to the topic of LimeWire.
In December 2010, after failing to reach agreements concerning the appropriate scope of the subpoenas with certain non-party licensees, Defendants moved to compel the production of those three categories of documents.
In the January 31 Order, Judge Freeman addressed Defendants' motions to compel against the Licensees. Judge Freeman began by noting that Plaintiffs had already "produced a significant number of documents in the three categories [of documents] at issue." (January 31 Order at 3.) However, she acknowledged Defendants' argument that discovery from the Licensees might result in additional relevant documents, because the Licensees may have different document retention policies than Plaintiffs. (Id.) Judge Freeman ordered the Licensees to produce external communications with Plaintiffs, and internal communications relating to their license agreements with Plaintiffs and/or to the topic of LimeWire.*fn2 (Id. at 4-5.) Each Licensee has filed an objection to the January 31 Order. For the reasons stated below, Judge Freeman's January 31 Order is REVERSED.
II. Standard of Review and Governing Law
Pursuant to Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and its enabling statute, the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), for non-dispositive matters, including discovery disputes, a district court shall reverse a magistrate's order only where it has been shown that the order is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) (2002); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); Thomas E. Hoar, Inc. v. Sara Lee Corp., 900 F.2d 522, 525 (2d Cir. 1990). Courts in this Circuit have held that a magistrate's ruling on a discovery dispute should be overturned only for an abuse of discretion. Edmonds v. Seavey, No.08 Civ. 5646, 2009 WL 2150971, *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 20, 2009) (noting ...