DMCA Counternotification Doesn’t Create Personal Jurisdiction in Copyright Owner’s Home Court–Real v. Matteo

This case combines one of my favorite Internet Law topics, 17 USC 512, with one of my least favorite, personal jurisdiction. TL;DR: if a foreign national submits a 512(g) counternotification, it doesn’t ensure the copyright owner can sue in its home court.

The copyright at issue involves “Towergirls,” a video game. One putative copyright owner, based in Australia, had an agreement with Matteo, based in Italy, to extend the Towergirls universe. A Louisiana entity also claims partial ownership of the copyright, but wasn’t part of that agreement. Matteo crowd-sourced his effort on Patreon. The relationship soured when Matteo allegedly added nonconsensual sex to his effort and publicly undermined the putative owners’ ownership. The putative owners sent a takedown notice to Patreon. Matteo counternoticed on fair use grounds. The putative owners sued Matteo in Louisiana. Matteo moved to dismiss.

The court says Louisiana didn’t have general or specific jurisdiction over Matteo. The Louisiana plaintiff wasn’t part of the contract, and Matteo’s only contacts with the US were through Patreon, based in California. The last-ditch argument for Louisiana jurisdiction is Matteo’s 512(g) counternotice. By submitting the counternotice, Matteo confirmed (as required by the statute) that he “consents to the jurisdiction of [the] Federal District Court for the judicial district in which the address [of the subscriber] is located, or if the subscriber’s address is outside of the United States, for any judicial district in which the service provider may be found.” That would be Patreon’s home court in San Francisco, CA. Thus, Louisiana lacks jurisdiction.

Note that the plaintiffs can refile against Matteo in California; and they could sue Matteo in Italy, though sometimes it can be a little tricky to enforce US copyrights internationally.

Case citationReal v. Matteo, 2018 WL 493596 (W.D. La. Jan. 3, 2018). This is a magistrate ruling. The plaintiffs did not object, and the district court judge approved it on Jan. 19, 2018.