Federal Court Shuts Down IMDb-Targeting ‘Anti-Ageism’ Law Permanently

27 02 2018


retrieved Feb. 23, 2018

In the annals of stupid legislation, California’s attempt to fight ageism at Hollywood studios by targeting third-party websites and using the First Amendment as a doormat will secure a prominent place in infamy. Rising from the ashes of a failed lawsuit brought by an actress who claimed IMDb cost her untold amounts of wealth by publishing her age, the law basically said IMDb couldn’t publish facts on its website. Those pushing the legislation included the Screen Actors Guild, which apparently doesn’t have the spine to stand up to studios and target them for discriminating against actors and actresses.

Last year, IMDb secured a temporary injunction against the state of California, forbidding it from enforcing the law while the courts sorted out its constitutionality. That day has arrived. A federal court has declared the law unconstitutional and permanently blocked California from going after IMDb because Hollywood producers participate in discriminatory hiring. (h/t Jacob Gershman)

The decision [PDF] is short. It takes only six pages for the district court to destroy the state’s arguments. First, it tells the state it’s not going to apply a lower First Amendment standard of scrutiny to its awful law.


The content in this post was found at https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180221/14510139279/federal-court-shuts-down-imdb-targeting-anti-ageism-law-permanently.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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Section 230 Protects Google’s Decision Not To De-Index Content–Bennett v. Google

3 01 2018

Dawn J. Bennett was a financial advisor in major trouble with the SEC. She also has a sporting apparel company. She hired an SEO, Pierson, to improve the search engine indexing of her website. After a payment dispute, Pierson posted a blog post that starts out “DJ Bennett, the luxury sporting goods company, does not pay their employees or contractors.” Bennett demanded Google de-index the blog post, and then sued Google for defamation and more when it didn’t.


Case citation: Bennett v. Google, Inc., 2017 WL 2692607 (D.C.D.C. June 21, 2017). The complaint.


The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/06/section-230-protects-googles-decision-not-to-de-index-content-bennett-v-google.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.

When Do Review Websites Commit Extortion?–Icon Health v. ConsumerAffairs

3 01 2018

Icon Health and Fitness manufactures exercise equipment, such as the well-known NordicTrack. ConsumerAffairs is a review website. Like many other review websites, its business model is predicated on payments from reviewed businesses. However, ConsumerAffairs’ specific practices raise some extra questions. The complaint made the following allegations:


Case citation: Icon Health and Fitness v. ConsumerAffairs.com, 2017 WL 2728413 (D. Utah June 23, 2017).

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/07/when-do-review-websites-commit-extortion-icon-health-v-consumeraffairs.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.

Court Can’t Ban Resident From Discussing HOA Online–Fox v. Hamptons at MetroWest Condos

3 01 2018

This is the third time this year I’m blogging about homeowners’ associations suppressing online speech (see my posts on the Revock and Milazzo cases). I’m pretty sure HOA online censorship is a growth industry (indeed, my CRFA primer calls out the housing/lodging industry as one of the places where anti-review clauses were deployed). If you’re looking for paper topics, this may be worth exploring.

This lawsuit involves the Hamptons at MetroWest condo complex in Orlando. Apparently they have some major issues with construction defects or maintenance. Fox resides in the condo community. The HOA sued him for “a continuous course of conduct designed and carried out for the purpose of harassing, intimidating, and threatening other residents, the Association, and its representatives” (unfortunately, the opinion wasn’t more specific about Fox’s prior activities). The parties settled that lawsuit. Shortly thereafter, the HOA sought a contempt order (apparently because “Fox utilized the internet to voice his displeasure over the quality of life at the Hamptons”), and the court:

ordered Fox to stop posting, circulating, and publishing any pictures or personal information about current or future residents, board members, management, employees or personnel of the management company, vendors of the Hamptons, or any other management company of the Hamptons on any website, blog, or social media. He was further ordered to take down all such information currently on any of his websites or blogs. The trial court also prohibited Fox from starting any new blogs, websites or social media websites related to the Hamptons or the Association. It informed Fox that, as his punishment, if someone asked him on his social media page if he enjoyed living at the Hamptons, he could not post a response online. Instead, he would have to call the person to express his concerns.

Oh, Florida….

Fortunately, this doesn’t fly with the appeals court. Unlike the Revock case, this court actually sees the First Amendment implications here. After waxing philosophic about the impermissibility of prior restraints, the court concludes:


Case citation: Fox v. Hamptons at MetroWest Condominium Association, 2017 WL 3091217 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. July 21, 2017)

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/07/court-cant-ban-resident-from-discussing-hoa-online-fox-v-hamptons-at-metrowest-condos.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.

Facebook Defeats Another Case Over Not Removing User Comments–La’Tiejira v. Facebook

1 01 2018

In terms of legal doctrine, this case is virtually identical to the Cross v. Facebook case I recently blogged. In both cases, the plaintiff sued Facebook for not removing user posts. In both cases, Facebook won an anti-SLAPP motion (CA in Cross, TX in La’Tiejira) predicated on Section 230 and the plaintiff will be writing a check to Facebook. If you’re a Section 230 aficionado, this opinion is especially worth reading (despite its prolixity) because (1) it will be published in FSupp3d, and (2) it’s filled with lots of positive judicial statements about Section 230, its breadth, etc.

Case citation: La’Tiejira v. Facebook, Inc., 2017 WL 3426039 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 7, 2017)


The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/08/facebook-defeats-another-case-over-not-removing-user-comments-latiejira-v-facebook.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.

Is being called a ‘patent troll’ defamatory? NH inventor files suit against banking industry to find out

1 01 2018

In a New Hampshire State Superior Court, this so-called ‘patent troll’ has decided to fight back. Automated Transactions and Dave Barcelou have filed a defamation complaint against the crème de la crème of those deemed “too big to fail” and who many might consider to be too big to defeat… The minute Barcelou was able to enforce his patented technologies in court, winning a sizable settlement from the biggest bank in his hometown of Buffalo, NY, a veritable “Who’s Who” of the financial services leaders joined forces to destroy both Barcelou and his company economically. Besides encouraging one another to ignore Automated Transaction’s demand letters, false and misleading statements started to appear in prominent business publications, which went so far as to say the company had purchased its patents, or alternatively, that the patents were invalid. Over time a unified battle cry arose from the ‘poor little community banks’ he allegedly targeted; “He’s nothing but a patent troll.”


The content in this post was found at http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2017/08/15/patent-troll-defamatory-nh-inventor-files-suit-banking-industry/id=86857/and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.

Dozen Amicus Briefs Oppose the Worst Section 230 Ruling of 2016 (and One Supports It)–Hassell v. Bird

31 12 2017

You surely recall the Hassell v. Bird ruling from last year. 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 turn of events, the California appeals court held that Yelp was required to remove the review. That ruling accomplished a rare trifecta. It screwed up not one, not two, but THREE cherished American legal principles: the First Amendment, Due Process, and Section 230. If it survives, the consequences of the appellate court’s ruling could be severe: it would create a giant workaround to Section 230, and it would create a synthetic right to be forgotten in the US. Fortunately, the California Supreme Court granted a petition to review. This blog post will summarize what’s happened since then.



The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/04/dozen-amicus-briefs-oppose-the-worst-section-230-ruling-of-2016-and-one-supports-it-hassell-v-bird.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.

‘Reaction’ Video Protected By Fair Use–Hosseinzadeh v. Klein

29 12 2017

Plaintiff Matt Hosseinzadeh published a video skit featuring the “Bold Guy” character, “Bold Guy vs. Parkour Girl” video. Ethan and Hila Klein created a “reaction video” to it. Hosseinzadeh’s video is five minutes and twenty-four seconds. The Kleins used three minutes and fifteen seconds of it to create their fourteen minute-long video. The Kleins’ video that sparked the lawsuit is embedded below:

In addition to a copyright claim, Hosseinzadeh sued over the Kleins’ allegedly misleading DMCA counter-notice and their statement about the lawsuit. The Kleins win summary judgment in an emphatic ruling.

Fair use: In looking at the first factor, the court highlights various aspects of the Klein video that contain criticism and comment:

  • Ethan Klein remarks that the Bold Guy “comes from . . . an older day ofYouTube,” and refers to plaintiff as “the king of cringetube.”
  • Ethan Klein mocks the video’s opening title sequence and mimics the movement of the words by performing a dance in his seat.
  • After watching what they apparently consider a lewd and unrealistic opening sequence, defendants point out that plaintiff wrote the script, andEthan Klein remarks “this is how Matt Hoss sees the world and it says more about him than it does about anyone else.”
  • Defendants sarcastically compliment the “sleeveless hoodie” that Bold Guy wears, calling it “one of the classiest . . . pieces of clothing you can own.”
  • Defendants mock the fact that plaintiff included a line in the script complimenting his own “strong shoulders.”
  • Hila Klein expresses irritation with the female character, stating “the female characters [in Bold Guy videos] are always so annoying, and he writes them like that.”
  • Defendants engage in extended criticism and mockery of the female character’s statement “catch me and I’ll let you do whatever you want to me.”
  • Defendants mock plaintiff’s parkour ability, sarcastically stating that plaintiff “thinks he’s . . . a parkour expert.”
  • Ethan Klein criticizes a scene in which Bold Guy rapidly moves from one location to another, stating that the scene “broke [the] realism” of the video.

The second factor weighs against fair use because the work is creative. As to the third factor, the court says that the Kleins’ use of the work was perhaps extensive, but was necessary to achieve their intended commentary and critique. The fourth factor weighs in favor of fair use as consumers of one will not view it as a substitute for the other:

anyone seeking to enjoy “Bold Guy v. Parkour Girl” on its own will have a very different experience watching the Klein video, which responds to and transforms the Hoss video from a skit into fodder for caustic, moment-by-moment commentary and mockery

DMCA Misrepresentation: The court’s conclusion on fair use definitively answers the DMCA misrepresentation issue. The Kleins’ counternotice was necessarily supported by a good faith belief that their video was not infringing. Even if the court went the other way on fair use, it says it would grant summary judgment on the DMCA misrepresentation claim.

Defamation Claim: Plaintiff asserted a defamation claim based on the Kleins’ commentary and video about the underlying litigation. The court says the Kleins’ “lawsuit video” is full of opinion (e.g., “I think that the heart and soul of this is . . . he doesn’t like that we made fun of him, and so he’s suing us”). The Kleins made a statement about the timing of the litigation and settlement discussions. Plaintiff argued that the Kleins’ not-totally-accurate portrayal of the timing is defamatory because it portrays plaintiff as a “trigger-happy litigant who immediately activates his lawyers when he is criticized.” [Lawyering note: I’m not sure that’s a great choice of framing in a case involving a reaction video over which plaintiff sued.] Ultimately, the court says that the Kleins’ description of the lead-up to the litigation is either substantially true or omitted facts which would not have led a reasonable listener to a different conclusion.




Case Citation: Hosseinzadeh v. Klein, 1:16-cv-03081-KBF (SDNY Aug. 23, 2017)


The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/08/reaction-video-protected-by-fair-use-hosseinzadeh-v-klein.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.

Blogger Isn’t Liable for Anonymous Comments–Griffith v. Wall

29 12 2017

[It’s impossible to blog about Section 230 without reminding you that Congress is on the cusp of gutting it.]

Griffith blogs at the Lumberton Informer. He has criticized Wall, Lumberton’s municipal clerk. The blog allows anonymous comments, and Wall claimed that Griffith wrote those too. Wall sued Griffith for defamation, but Griffith won at trial. In a post-trial opinion, the judge explained that Wall was a public figure, so any defamation claim needed to show actual malice, and no malice was shown. The opinion also said that most of Griffith’s statements were opinions, not assertions of facts. Regarding the anonymous comments, the opinion indicated “there was insufficient proof in the record to find that Griffith had control over the posting of anonymous comments in his blog—and thus was not responsible for their content.”

In Wall’s appeal, she claimed that Griffith violated 47 USC 230(c)(2), the provision that says websites aren’t liable for their filtering decisions. What??? Wall claimed 230(c)(2) “placed an obligation on Griffith to remove offending material published—by anonymous posters—on his blog.” The appellate court disagrees:


Case citation: Griffith v. Wall, 2017 WL 3713534 (Miss. Ct. App. Aug. 29, 2017)

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/08/blogger-isnt-liable-for-anonymous-comments-griffith-v-wall.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.

Message Board Operator Isn’t Liable for Highlighting User Comments–Ayyadurai v. Techdirt

28 12 2017

[It’s impossible to blog about Section 230 without reminding you that it remains highly imperiled.]

I’m so far behind in my blogging that you’ve already heard about–and forgotten–this ruling. Ayyadurai claimed to have invented “email” because he developed a software program in the late 1970s called “Email.” Mike Masnick, in his inimitable way, repeatedly debunked Ayyadurai’s claim. Ayyadurai retained lawyer Charles Harder, famous for representing the plaintiff that helped Hulk Hogan kick Gawker out of the marketplace, to sue Techdirt for defamation in Massachusetts. The court granted Techdirt’s motion to dismiss.

The court says Ayyadurai is a public figure and the case involves a matter of public concern, and he can’t prove the requisite falsity. With respect to Techdirt’s denigration of his status as email’s inventor (including harsher statements like “fake,” “fraud” and “charlatan”), the court says those “statements are protected because they are not provably false, are subjective statements that do not imply knowledge of objective facts, or are statements involving figurative language or hyperbole.” Like many other recent online defamation rulings, this court credits the hyperlinks to source documents (“by providing hyperlinks to the relevant information, the articles enable readers to review the underlying information for themselves and reach their own conclusions”) and the freewheeling nature of the blogosphere.

It’s a good ruling, but it’s a reminder that Massachusetts’s anti-SLAPP law isn’t robust enough to cover lawsuits like this. Massachusetts is currently considering a much-needed amendment to its anti-SLAPP law, but what we really need is a federal anti-SLAPP law that sets a minimum free speech floor across the nation.


Case citation: Ayyadurai v. Floor64, Inc., 2017 WL 3896668 (D. Mass. Sept. 6, 2017). Techdirt’s post about the ruling.

The content in this post was found at http://blog.ericgoldman.org/archives/2017/10/message-board-operator-isnt-liable-for-highlighting-user-comments-ayyadurai-v-techdirt.htm and was not authored by the moderators of freeforafee.com. Clicking the title link will take you to the source of the post.