February 28, 2011 Articles

Application of Iqbal in the Second Circuit

This is a summary of recent cases decided in the Second Circuit relating to the <i>Iqbal v. Ashcroft</i> ruling.

By Carla R. Walworth and Mor Wetzler

The Second Circuit has explored the interplay between Iqbal and other earlier decisions by the Supreme Court and the circuit. For example, in Arista Records LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110 (2d Cir. 2010), the Second Circuit noted that Iqbal did not raise the pleading standard beyond the plausibility requirement in Twombly, and reconciled Iqbal with Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002), which held that beyond providing fair notice of his claim, an employment-discrimination plaintiff need not also allege “specific facts establishing a prima facie case.” Arista Records LLC, 604 F.3d 110 (emphasizing that Twombly did “not require heightened fact pleading of specifics,” and stating, “[n]or did Iqbal heighten the pleading requirements”).

Arista Records involved a copyright-infringement action based on downloading or distribution of music. Anonymous defendants moved to quash a subpoena served on their Internet service provider to obtain information sufficient to disclose their identities. One anonymous defendant appealed denial of the motion to quash, claiming that the subpoena violated his First Amendment right to anonymity, and that under Twombly and Iqbal’s higher pleading standard, the companies did not state plausible copyright-infringement claims. On appeal, the Second Circuit found that, to the extent anonymity is used to mask copyright infringement or to facilitate such infringement by other persons, it is unprotected by the First Amendment.

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