Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries

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A claim of genericness or "genericide," where the public appropriates a trademark and uses it as a generic name for particular types of goods or services irrespective of its source, must be made with regard to a particular type of good or service. Plaintiffs petitioned for cancellation of the GOOGLE trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1064(3), based on the ground that it is generic. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Google, Inc., holding that plaintiffs failed to recognize that a claim of genericide must always relate to a particular type of good or service, and that plaintiffs erroneously assumed that verb use automatically constitutes generic use; the district court correctly framed its inquiry as whether the primary significance of the word "google" to the relevant public was as a generic name for internet search engines or as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular; the assumption that a majority of the public uses the verb "google" in a generic and indiscriminate sense, on its own, could not support a jury finding of genericide under the primary significance test; and plaintiffs have failed to present sufficient evidence in this case to support a jury finding that the relevant public primarily understands the word "google" as a generic name for internet search engines and not as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular. View "Elliott v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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The court affirmed the approval of a class action settlement and grant of attorneys' fees and service awards in a suit alleging that Symantec failed to disclose that consumers could use various free alternatives to re-download their Norton anti-virus software. The district court did not abuse its discretion by approving the settlement without knowing the final administrative costs or the final amount received by the class; in awarding the requested fees where the circumstances of this case justified a large award, and the reasonableness of the award was cross-checked against the lodestar method; in approving the terms of the settlement agreement providing that any minimal remaining funds would be distributed to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as an appropriate cy pres recipient; and in awarding service awards to each of the named plaintiffs. View "Caligiuri v. Symantec Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2710, alleging that the CNN App, without a user's knowledge, both tracks the user's views of news articles and videos and also collects a record of this viewing activity. CNN sends the collected record of viewing activity to Bango, a third party company. Bango is able to compile personal information, including the user's name, location, phone number, email address, and payment information, and it can attribute this information to a single user across different devices and platforms. The district court dismissed the amended complaint. The court held that a plaintiff, such as the one in this case, satisfied the concreteness requirement of Article III standing where the plaintiff alleges a violation of the VPPA for wrongful disclosure. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff is not a "subscriber" as defined by the VPPA such that CNN may be held liable. The court noted that it need not address whether CNN provided plaintiff's "personally identifiable information" to a third party. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Perry v. Cable News Network, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mavrix filed suit against LiveJournal for posting 20 of its copyrighted photographs online. The district court granted summary judgment for LiveJournal, holding that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), safe harbor protected LiveJournal from liability because Mavrix's photographs were posted at the direction of the user. In this case, when users submitted Mavrix's photographs to LiveJournal, LiveJournal posted the photographs after a team of volunteer moderators led by a LiveJournal employee reviewed and approved them. The court disagreed with the district court and concluded that the common law of agency does apply to this analysis and that there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators were LiveJournal's agents. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for trial. The court addressed the remaining issues that the district court addressed because these issues may be contested on remand. On remand, the district court must determine whether LiveJournal met the section 512(c) safe harbor threshold requirement by showing that the photographs were posted at the direction of the user, then LiveJournal must show that it lacked actual or red flag knowledge of the infringements and that it did not financially benefit from infringements that it had the right and ability to control. View "Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, BWP Media and National Photo Group, filed suit against T&S, an internet service provider, for direct and secondary infringement. Plaintiffs alleged that T&S hosted an internet forum on which third-party users posted images that infringed copyrights owned by plaintiffs. The district court granted summary judgment for T&S. The court adopted the volitional-conduct requirement in direct-copyright infringement cases, and found that BWP did not contend that T&S did, in fact, engage in such conduct. In this case, the court explained that T&S hosts the forum on which infringing content was posted, but its connection to the infringement ends there. Rather, the users posted the infringing content. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "BWP Media USA, Inc. v. T & S Software Associates, Inc." on Justia Law

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While investigating Doe concerning online child pornography, agents executed a warrant and seized iPhones and a computer with attached hard drives, all protected with encryption software. Forensic analysts discovered the password for the computer and found an image of a pubescent girl in a sexually provocative position, logs showing that it had been used to visit sites with titles common in child exploitation, and that Doe had downloaded thousands of known child pornography files, which were stored on the encrypted external drives and could not be accessed. Doe's sister related that Doe had shown her hundreds of child pornography images on those drives. A magistrate, acting under the All Writs Act, ordered Doe to produce his devices and drives in an unencrypted state. Doe did not appeal the order but unsuccessfully moved to quash, arguing that his decrypting the devices would violate his Fifth Amendment privilege. The magistrate held that, because the government possessed Doe’s devices and knew the contents included child pornography, the decryption would not be testimonial. Doe did not appeal. Doe produced the unencrypted iPhone, which contained adult pornography, a video of Doe’s four-year-old niece wearing only underwear, and approximately 20 photographs focused on the genitals of Doe’s six-year-old niece. Doe stated that he could not remember the hard drive passwords and entered incorrect passwords during the examination. The court held Doe in civil contempt and ordered his incarceration. The Third Circuit affirmed, noting that Doe bore the burden of proving that he could not produce the passwords and had waived his Fifth Amendment arguments. View "United States v. Apple Macpro Computer" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia certified a question of Georgia law to the Georgia Supreme Court. Arthur and Barbara Sheridan owned several pre-1972 master sound recordings of certain popular songs, as well as the associated intellectual property and contract rights. iHeartMedia operated AM/FM radio stations, as well as internet radio services. These latter services allow listeners to access and listen to a song through an internet-connected device such as a tablet, computer, or smartphone. iHeartMedia streamed the Sheridans’ recordings to listeners over its internet radio platform, iHeartRadio. It was undisputed that iHeartMedia had no license, authority, or consent from the Sheridans to stream the recordings, and iHeartMedia did not compensate the Sheridans for the use of their recordings. The Sheridans claimed that iHeartMedia needed their consent to transfer their master sound recordings to iHeartRadio listeners, and that iHeartMedia engaged in racketeering activity by making unauthorized transfers. iHeartMedia moved to dismiss the Sheridans’ complaint under the radio broadcast exemption in OCGA 16-8-60 (c) (1), which stated that the statute did not apply to “any person who transfers or causes to be transferred any such sounds or visual images intended for or in connection with radio or television broadcast transmission or related uses." After review, the Supreme Court found that the type of internet radio services being offered by iHeartMedia, Inc. in this case fell under the exemption set forth in OCGA 16-8-60 (c) (l). View "iHeartMedia, Inc. v. Sheridan" on Justia Law

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After a Machine Zone (MZ) employee posted a review on Glassdoor's website disclosing confidential information regarding MZ's RTPlatform technology, MZ filed suit against the employee for violation of a nondisclosure agreement signed by all MZ employees. When Glassdoor refused to identify the employee, MZ moved for an order compelling disclosure, which the trial court granted. Glassdoor petitioned for a writ directing the trial court to set aside its order. The court concluded that Glassdoor has standing to assert the employee's interest in maintaining his anonymity as against MZ's efforts to compel Glassdoor to identify him. The court concluded that MZ failed to make a prima facie showing that the employee's statements disclosed confidential information in violation of the nondisclosure agreement, and granted the requested relief. In this case, MZ denied the accuracy of the employee's report without identifying any real confidential information it might be understood to have disclosed. View "Glassdoor, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Prism’s patents describe methods and systems for managing access to protected information provided over certain “untrusted” networks. The technology involves an access server, an authentication server, and a client. The access server forwards client requests for protected information to the authentication server. If the authentication server, using stored identity data, successfully authenticates the client, the client receives authorization to access the information. After the court construed “Internet Protocol network” and similar limitations as “an untrusted network using any protocol of the Internet Protocol Suite including at least one of IP, TCP/IP UDP/IP, HTTP, and HTTP/IP.” and defined an “untrusted” network as “a public network with no controlling organization, with the path to access the network being undefined and the user being anonymous,” a jury found Sprint liable for infringement and awarded Prism $30 million in reasonable-royalty damages under 35 U.S.C. 284. The district court denied Prism’s motion for additional monetary relief for times after the period Prism said was covered by the jury verdict. The Federal Circuit affirmed, upholding the court’s admission of evidence of a settlement between Prism and AT&T in a suit involving similar allegations and other evidentiary rulings. View "Prism Technologies LLC v. Sprint Spectrum L.P." on Justia Law

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The Millers, from Lafayette, Indiana, shot and killed two police officers and one civilian in Las Vegas. They died in an ensuing shootout. Days later, Bradbury, a Lafayette resident, placed a message on Facebook, referring to “the town’s cop killing group run by ... myself,” to having sent the Millers to Las Vegas, and to a “larger plot … to kill cops … specifically to take out [named officers]…. We have gathered enough thermite and explosives … to destroy no less than 6 police cars, as well as the Tippecanoe County Courthouse.” A friend asked whether he was serious; Bradbury stated, “complete satire … a big mind game … [I]t’s made to get you to think.” (To think about committing mayhem!).” Bradbury deleted his post, but screenshots were sent to the police. A search, pursuant to warrants, of his bedroom in his parents’ home, revealed thermite. Bradbury was acquitted of “willfully mak[ing] any threat,” but convicted of “maliciously convey[ing] false information,” 18 U.S.C. 844(e), and sentenced to 41 months of imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding a jury instruction that “maliciously” means “to act intentionally or with deliberate disregard of the likelihood that damage or injury will result.” The court rejected an argument that the post was a joke, so there was nothing malicious. Bradbury conducted an elaborate and malicious hoax, intending disruptive effects by diverting law enforcement resources. View "United States v. Bradbury" on Justia Law