In a Divided Opinion, California Supreme Court Squashes End Run around CDA Immunity That Sought to Compel a Non-Party Online Platform to Remove Defamatory Content

2 08 2018

Proskaur

Jeffrey Neuburger
July 31, 2018

In a closely-followed dispute, the California Supreme Court vacated a lower court order, based upon a default judgment in a defamation action, which had directed Yelp, Inc. (“Yelp”), a non-party to the original suit, to take down certain consumer reviews posted on its site. (Hassell v. Bird, No. S235968, 2018 WL 3213933 (Cal. July 2, 2018)).  If the plaintiffs had included Yelp as a defendant in the original suit, such a suit would have likely been barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA” or “CDA Section 230”); instead, the plaintiffs adopted a litigation strategy to bypass such legal immunities.  In refusing to allow plaintiff’s “creative pleading” to avoid the CDA, the outcome was a win for online companies and platforms that host user-generated content (“A Case for the Internet,” declared Yelp).

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The content in this post was found at https://newmedialaw.proskauer.com/2018/07/31/in-a-divided-opinion-california-supreme-court-squashes-end-run-around-cda-immunity-that-sought-to-compel-a-non-party-online-platform-to-remove-defamatory-content/ Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

 

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Recapping a Year’s Worth of Section 230 Cases That Got Stuck in My Blogging Queue

2 08 2018

Technology & Marketing Law Blog


April 30, 2018

[Though most of these rulings are defense-favorable, Congress recently eviscerated Section 230 and isn’t done ruining its greatest online policy masterpiece]

Twitter Defeats Defamation Claim

 

Case citation: Frenken v. Hunter, 2018 WL 1964893 (N.D. Cal. April 26, 2018)

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Section 230 Protects Instagram Link to Defamatory Content

Case citation: Marfione v. Kai USA, 2018 WL 1519042 (W.D. Pa. March 28, 2018)

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No Liability for Cyber-Harassment Attack, Even if the Service Could Have Been Designed Differently

 

Case citation: Herrick v. Grindr LLC, 2018 WL 566457 (SDNY Jan. 25, 2018)

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Section 230 Protects Message Board 

Allnurses runs a message board related to nursing. The plaintiff offers Active Test Prep (ATP), a test prep service for nursing exams. Allnurses users allegedly defamed ATP in message board posts. Allnurses defends on Section 230 grounds, which the court largely accepts. ATP claimed the users were Allnurses’ “agents” but didn’t marshal good evidence to support the assertion. Also, the court says Section 230 applies to claims that Allnurses “ratified and adopted” the user comments. In a footnote, the court says: “ATP argues that Allnurses selectively removed content and ultimately closed the thread—but that is precisely the type of action that the CDA was intended to protect.”

The opinion also addresses what it means to “like” an allegedly defamatory post: “to ‘Like’ something online is not to vouch for its veracity, and certainly not in whole.” See Bland v. Roberts.

ATP also claimed breach of contract for Allnurses’ failure to enforce negative behavioral covenants in the TOS (have you noticed how often plaintiffs are trying this attempted workaround to Section 230?). The court says that Allnurses’ contract formation failed because ATP  “does not allege, and the record does not show, that users must check a box accepting the statement ‘Your participation implies full acceptance with our Terms of Service.’” [Protip: you never want to “imply” anything about your contract terms or formation process.] Furthermore, ATP can’t be a third party beneficiary of the Allnurses/user contract because “by this logic, the entire world is an intended beneficiary of the TOS. That cannot be right.” The promissory estoppel workaround fails because the TOS terms are too indefinite.

Case citationEast Coast Test Prep LLC v. Allnurses.com, Inc., 2018 WL 614732 (D. Minn. Jan. 29, 2018)

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Section 230 Helps Defeat Product Liability Claim

A retractable leash permanently injured the plaintiff’s eye. She bought the leash from an Amazon Marketplace merchant. She sued Amazon for various products liability claims. The court says no. First, the court says Amazon wasn’t the seller of goods in its marketplace. Sorry this passage is so painful, but don’t shoot the messenger:

Like an auctioneer, Amazon is merely a third-party vendor’s “means of marketing,” since third-party vendors—not Amazon—“cho[o]se the products and expose[ ] them for sale by means of” the Marketplace. Because of the enormous number of third-party vendors (and, presumably, the correspondingly enormous number of goods sold by those vendors) Amazon is similarly “not equipped to pass upon the quality of the myriad of products” available on its Marketplace. And because Amazon has “no role in the selection of the goods to be sold,” it also cannot have any “direct impact upon the manufacture of the products” sold by the third-party vendors.

The Amazon Marketplace serves as a sort of newspaper classified ad section, connecting potential consumers with eager sellers in an efficient, modern, streamlined manner. Because subjecting it to strict liability would not further the purposes of § 402A, as revealed by Musser and other Pennsylvania cases, it cannot be liable to the Oberdorfs under a strict products liability theory.

Calling Amazon Marketplace a “classified ad section” is definitely defense-favorable, but it’s a weak analogy that other courts would reject. See Airbnb v. San Francisco. Regarding Section 230, the court says:

Since the Oberdorfs’ claims for strict products liability, misrepresentation, and breach of warranty have all been disposed of supra, this Court need only consider Amazon’s CDA argument with respect to the Oberdorfs’ negligence and negligent undertaking claims. Although the Complaint frames those claims broadly, it is clear from the Oberdorfs’ papers that they are, in fact, attempting to hold Amazon liable for its role in publishing an advertisement for The Furry Group’s product. In other words, the Oberdorfs are attempting to “treat[ Amazon] as the publisher or speaker of…information provided by” The Furry Group.

Uncited cases in this genre include: Inman v. Technicolor, McDonald v. LG (reaching a different conclusion on Section 230), Hinton v. Amazon, and Englert v. Alibaba.

Case citation: Oberdorf v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2017 WL 6527142 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 21, 2017)

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Publicity Rights Claim Preempted by Section 230 in a Court Outside the 9th Circuit

 

Case citation: Parker v. PayPal, 2017 WL 3508759 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 16, 2017)

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The content in this post was found at https://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2018/04/recapping-a-years-worth-of-section-230-cases-that-got-stuck-in-my-blogging-queue.htm  Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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The California Supreme Court Didn’t Ruin Section 230 (Today)–Hassell v. Bird

25 07 2018

Technology & Marketing Law Blog


July 2, 2018
I previously described the case facts: “A lawyer was unhappy with a Yelp review about her. The lawyer sued the putative author (with dubious service of process), got a default ruling that the review was defamatory along with a removal injunction, and then delivered the injunction to Yelp and demanded removal. Yelp refused to remove the review.” In a shocking development, in 2016, the Court of Appeals upheld the injunction. Today, the California Supreme Court reversed that ruling, seemingly restoring the status quo. Yelp rightly claims it as a win.

However, the long-term implications of this case aren’t entirely clear because the Supreme Court voted 3-1-3:  . . .

Unfortunately, the fractured opinions raise some doubts about the true holding of this case. If the plurality opinion is the law, Section 230 defendants have a lot to celebrate. The plurality opinion strongly endorses Section 230….

The opinion is noteworthy for what it didn’t do. There was no analysis at all of the First Amendment. Due process was discussed, but there was no clear resolution on the applicability of Constitutional due process to this case. The opinions did not come anywhere close to resolving when a non-party can be bound to an injunction, an issue that affects cases far beyond the Internet Law realm. . . .

One of the many unusual aspects of this case is that Yelp didn’t remove the review when presented with the court’s judgment.

Case Citation: Hassell v. Bird, S235968 (Cal. Sup. Ct. July 2, 2018)

[ed’s note: Eric’s subsequent analysis is detailed and insightful. Uses this case to address LOADS of 230 issues. Do note, this is a state supreme court (CA) decision.]

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The content in this post was found at https://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2018/07/the-california-supreme-court-didnt-ruin-section-230-today-hassell-v-bird.htm  Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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Right of Publicity Risks For Producers Still Uncertain

25 07 2018

the IP law blog
Scott Hervey
July 5th, 2018

Often writers base characters on complete fiction, drawing from their imagination to build a character’s various facets.  However, on certain occasions a writer may base a character on a living person.  Sometimes such a portrayal is factual and other times it may be a combination of fact and fiction.  Such was the case, claimed legendary actress Olivia de Havilland, in her lawsuit against FX Networks over her portrayal in the FX docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan.

Feud told the tale of the infamous silver screen ongoing battle between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.  De Havilland claimed that Catherine Zeta-Jones’s portrayal of her in the show (which lasted all of 17 minutes) violated her right of publicity because she did not give the creators of Feud permission to use her name or identity.  Additionally, de Havilland also claimed that FX portrayed her in a false light by taking certain creative liberties with the story (namely, the inclusion of a fictitious interview and the de Havilland character’s reference to her sister as a “bitch” when in fact the term she actually used was “dragon lady”).

At the trial court, FX filed a motion to strike the complaint based on California’s anti-SLAPP statute.  The trial court denied FX’s motion.  The trial court’s ruling presented a Catch-22 for those choosing to portray real persons in creative works.  If the portrayal is done accurately and realistically (and without permission) this is grounds for a right of publicity lawsuit; if the portrayal is more creative or entirely fictitious, this could be grounds for a false light claim if the person portrayed doesn’t like the portrayal.

FX appealed to the California Court of Appeals.  In a lengthy opinion, the court reverses the trial court’s decision and dismissed de Havilland’s case.  By all means, the opinion is a clear endorsement of the First Amendment rights of television producers (and other creatives).

The First Amendment Trumps de Havilland’s Right of Publicity.

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The content in this post was found at https://www.theiplawblog.com/2018/07/articles/ip/right-of-publicity-risks-for-producers-still-uncertain Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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Businesses Cannot Contractually Ban “Abusive” Consumer Reviews

24 07 2018

July 17, 2018

Technology & Marketing Law Blog

An article recently posted to SSRN argues that the Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA) purportedly lets businesses contractually ban “abusive” reviews. If this is correct, it could affect millions of businesses and hundreds of millions of consumers. However, the article’s argument is clearly wrong, and this error exposes millions of businesses to potentially severe liability. This post explains why and how.

Note: unavoidably, this blog post counterproductively draws greater attention to a bad argument. Because of the stakes, I concluded a public correction was, on balance, necessary. However, to reinforce my view that the article doesn’t merit your independent review, I’ve deliberately not identified the article’s author or title or linked to it (is there a blogging equivalent of subtweeting?). I recommend reading the article as “enthusiastically” as I “recommend” watching The Emoji Movie. . .  .

If you’re a business thinking about banning abusive reviews in your contract, I hope you got these two messages from this blog post: (1) that’s illegal, and (2) we’re coming for you, so see you in court.

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The content in this post was found at https://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2018/07/businesses-cannot-contractually-ban-abusive-consumer-reviews.htm  Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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State Appeals Court Tosses Defamation Suit Against Lawyer Who Wrote About Teen Driver Who Injured His Client

17 07 2018

Tech Dirt

Tim Cushing
Thu, Jul 12th 2018

An interesting sidebar to a case we’ve written about previously has surfaced via the ever-attentive Eric Goldman. Last month we covered a lawsuit against Snapchat brought by the victims of an car accident. The victims claim Snapchat is at least partially responsible for the injuries inflicted on Karen Maynard. The driver of the other vehicle, Christal McGee, was allegedly driving at over 100 mph when she hit Maynard’s vehicle. The suit also alleged — based on passenger statements, accident reconstruction, and police reports — McGee was using Snapchat’s “Speed” filter when the accident occurred.

The Georgia state appeals court allowed the case to proceed, but not on Section 230 grounds.

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The content in this post was found at https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180707/21561340194/state-appeals-court-tosses-defamation-suit-against-lawyer-who-wrote-about-teen-driver-who-injured-his-client.shtml Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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Lindsay Lohan Loses Publicity Rights Case Over Grand Theft Auto–Lohan v. Take-Two

31 05 2018

Technology & Marketing Law Blog

March 31, 2018 · by

Lindsay Lohan is the new spokesperson for Lawyer.com, and boy is she qualified to talk about that subject! Her litigiousness should have earned her a street JD. Sadly, though, her voluminous experience with the law hasn’t adequately sharpened her legal acumen, and she racked up another loss in her litigation oeuvre.

This time, it’s her publicity rights claim against Grand Theft Auto V for the character “Lacey Jonas,” which Grand Theft Auto’s maker featured in some advertising. Two screenshots discussed by the court:

If you’re curious, you can watch a video including a scene with “Jonas” from Grand Theft Auto V. I guess the video is mostly safe for work, but it has some cusswords and lots of sexism.

 

Case citationLohan v Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 02208, 2018 WL 1524714 (N.Y. App. Ct. March 29, 2018)

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The content in this post was found at https://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2018/03/lindsay-lohan-loses-publicity-rights-case-over-grand-theft-auto-lohan-v-take-two.htm

 Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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‘Worst of Both Worlds’ FOSTA Signed Into Law, Completing Section 230’s Evisceration

15 04 2018

Technology & Marketing  Law Blog

Eric Goldman

April 11, 2018

This morning, President Trump signed H.R. 1865, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA), into law. The bill signing was anticipated, but that doesn’t make the outcome any less terrible. Today, Washington DC regulators made a major error, one that we’ll likely regret for decades.

Eventually, I plan to write an explainer about the law. In this post, I’ll highlight three developments from the past 2+ weeks since the Senate approved the bill, plus some open questions.

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The content in this post was found at 

https://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2018/04/worst-of-both-worlds-fosta-signed-into-law-completing-section-230s-evisceration.htm Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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Intellectual Property in the World of eSports

4 04 2018

IP Watchdog

Roman Brtka
April 2, 2018

eSports is an exciting new area — not only in the sporting industry but in legal terms. There are various key players such as eGamers, game publishers, and organizers of eSports events, who are facing the challenge of sufficiently protecting their rights. Organizers need to ensure that they obtain all necessary usage rights from the game publishers and the participating eGamers, and these parties need to be aware of their possible ancillary copyrights and should take appropriate precautionary measures to protect them.

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The content in this post was found at https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2018/04/02/intellectual-property-esports/id=95245/

Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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Congress OKs sex trafficking bill that critics say will “censor the Internet”

22 03 2018

Ars Technica

– 3/21/2018, 5:54 PM

The US Senate today passed a bill that weakens legal protections given to websites that host third-party content, saying the measure will help stop promotion of prostitution and sex trafficking on the Internet. But the legislation won’t actually help victims of sex trafficking, and will erode online free speech, critics say.

The Senate passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) in a 97-2 vote. Only Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) voted against the bill, which is also known as the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA). It already passed the House of Representatives, and is expected to be signed by President Donald Trump.

The bill changes Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which provides website operators with broad immunity for hosting third-party content. The bill declares that Section 230 “was never intended to provide legal protection to websites that unlawfully promote and facilitate prostitution and websites that facilitate traffickers in advertising the sale of unlawful sex acts with sex trafficking victims.”

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The content in this post was found at https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/03/congress-oks-sex-trafficking-bill-that-critics-say-will-censor-the-internet/

Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post. and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com.

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