Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries
United States v. Grisanti
The FBI took over a child-pornography website, “Playpen,” and kept Playpen running to locate people who distributed and viewed child pornography. Playpen allowed visitors to remain anonymous. The FBI obtained a warrant authorizing the use of a “Network Investigative Technique” (NIT). When a user logged into Playpen, the NIT installed malware on the user’s computer and relayed identifying information to the FBI. The warrant application said that the property to be searched was “located in the Eastern District of Virginia” but an addendum stated that the NIT would be “deployed” on a server “located at a government facility in the Eastern District of Virginia” to obtain information from “activating computer[s]” of “any user” who logged into Playpen. Grisanti logged into Playpen from Indiana. The NIT sent identifying information. The FBI obtained Indiana search warrants and found evidence of child pornography on Grisanti’s computer. Before the FBI could complete its investigation, Grisanti destroyed the hard drive and a flash drive. The court denied a motion to suppress, concluding that the agents relied on the warrant in good faith. Convicted of destruction of evidence and child-pornography offenses, Grisanti was sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment. The court noted that Grisanti possessed more than 600 images of child pornography—some involving prepubescent children—and destroyed the evidence. He never sought treatment and blamed others when he was caught. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that it had already held that the good-faith exception applies to the warrant at issue. Grisanti’s sentence was not unreasonable and the district court did not make any procedural error. View "United States v. Grisanti" on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Internet Law, US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Mozilla Corp. v. FCC
The DC Circuit declined to vacate the FCC's 2018 Order in its entirety, which classified broadband internet access services as an information service under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Specifically, the 2018 Order classified broadband internet as an "information service," and mobile broadband as a "private mobile service." In the Order, the Commission adopted transparency rules intended to ensure that consumers have adequate data about Internet Service Providers' network practices, and the Commission applied a cost-benefit analysis, concluding that the benefits of a market-based, "light-touch" regime for Internet governance outweighed those of common carrier regulation under Title II. The court held, under the guidance of National Cable & Telecomms. Ass'n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967, 980–981 (2005), that the Commission permissibly classified broadband Internet access as an "information service" by virtue of the functionalities afforded by DNS and caching. The court also held that, even though petitioners' reading of a functional equivalence in 47 U.S.C. 332(d)(3) was not foreclosed by the statute, the agency's interpretation of that term, and its application to mobile broadband, were reasonable and merit Chevron deference. Furthermore, the court held that the Commission's rationales in favor of its reading of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act was reasonable, and agreed that the transparency rule was authorized by 47 U.S.C. 257. Therefore, the court upheld the 2018 Order with two exceptions. The court held that the Commission has not shown legal authority to issue its Preemption Directive, which would have barred states from imposing any rule or requirement that the Commission "repealed or decided to refrain from imposing" in the Order or that is "more stringent" than the Order. Accordingly, the court vacated that portion of the Order. The court also remanded the Order to the agency on three discrete issues regarding public safety, pole attachments, and the Lifeline Program. View "Mozilla Corp. v. FCC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Communications Law, Government & Administrative Law, Internet Law, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Engima Software Group USA, LLC v. Malwarebytes, Inc.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (DCA) immunizes software providers from liability for actions taken to help users block certain types of unwanted online material, including material that is of a violent or sexual nature or is "otherwise objectionable." Enigma filed suit alleging violations of New York state law and a violation of the Lanham Act's false advertising provision based on Malwarebytes Inc.'s configuration of its software to block users from accessing Enigma's software in order to divert Enigma's customers. The district court dismissed the action as barred by section 230's broad recognition of immunity. The panel distinguished Zango Inc. v. Kaspersky Lab, Inc., 568 F.3d 1169, 1173 (9th Cir. 2009), from this case and held that the parties here were competitors. The panel heeded the warning in Zango against an overly expansive interpretation of section 230 that could lead to anticompetitive results. Therefore, the panel held that the phrase "otherwise objectionable" does not include software that the provider finds objectionable for anticompetitive reasons. In this case, the panel held that Enigma's allegations of anticompetitive animus were sufficient to withstand dismissal. The panel also held that, although the Lanham Act itself deals with intellectual property, Enigma's false advertising claim did not relate to trademarks or any other type of intellectual property. Therefore, the district court correctly held that the intellectual property exception to immunity does not apply to the false advertising claim. Like the state law claims, the panel held that the district court read Zango too broadly in dismissing the federal claim. View "Engima Software Group USA, LLC v. Malwarebytes, Inc." on Justia Law
hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of hiQ, a data analytics company, prohibiting LinkedIn, a professional networking website, from denying hiQ access to publicly available LinkedIn member profiles. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that hiQ currently has no viable way to remain in business other than using LinkedIn public profile data for its Keeper and Skill Mapper services, and that HiQ therefore has demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction. The panel also held that the district court's determination that the balance of hardships tips sharply in hiQ's favor was not illogical, implausible, or without support in the record; hiQ raised serious questions regarding the merits of its tortious interference with contract claim and LinkedIn's legitimate business purpose defense; hiQ also raised a serious question regarding whether state law causes of action were preempted by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; and the district court's conclusion that the public interest favors granting the preliminary injunction was appropriate. View "hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp." on Justia Law
Thurston v. Midvale Corp.
Plaintiff, who is blind and uses a screen reader, filed suit alleging that defendant violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act by violating the federal American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Plaintiff's claims stemmed from her being unable to access defendant's restaurant website with her screen reader. The Court of Appeal held that Title III of the ADA applies to defendant's website; at a minimum, Title III covers a website with a nexus to a physical place of public accommodation; and the undisputed facts show a sufficient nexus between defendant's website and its restaurant. The court also held that plaintiff's and the trial court's references to nongovernmental guidelines did not violate defendant's due process rights; the trial court could and did disregard surplus comments plaintiff made about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0; and the specification of WCAG 2.0 guidelines in the injunction did not support or show a due process violation. Finally, the court held that whether defendant's alternative means of communication would be effective was not a triable issue of fact; plaintiff had standing to obtain an injunction; and the injunction mandating compliance with WCAG 2.0 was not overbroad or uncertain. View "Thurston v. Midvale Corp." on Justia Law
United States v. Khan
Khan construed a lawsuit concerning a traffic accident as “senseless provocation”; believed “noise pollution around [his] house” to be “organized persecution,” for which he promised retaliation; and believed Mayor Emanuel “doomed Chicago.” In Facebook posts, Khan threatened to “kill,” “shoot,” “hunt,” “murder,” and “put bullets in” college students, “vulnerable individuals,” people walking dogs, “high net worth individual[s],” and witnesses that “get [in] the way.” He claimed a specific Chicago neighborhood as his “free kill zone,” planned to “purchase a [G]o[P]ro camera, ... record the killings, and upload them.” Khan drove for Uber and posted messages about “dry run[s]” and carrying a loaded gun during shifts for “necessary murders.” He posted photos of himself holding those guns and “sw[ore] to Allah ... that I will ... murder in the next 30 days, which corresponded to Khan's plan to fly to Pakistan. Khan was indicted for making interstate threats to injure others, 18 U.S.C. 875(c). The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction, rejecting challenges to the indictment and the sufficiency of the evidence. The district court was not required to instruct the jury that it must find that Khan intended to communicate a threat; that the intended victim received it; and that it caused the victim to feel threatened. The court properly refused to suppress evidence of a gun found in Khan’s car and to suppress other evidence on the theory that the government did not produce evidence of an anonymous tip. View "United States v. Khan" on Justia Law
Dyroff v. The Ultimate Software Group
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Ultimate Software, operator of the Experience Project website, for its alleged role in the death of her son. Her son purchased heroin from another user through the site and died of fentanyl toxicity from the heroin. The panel held that Ultimate Software, as the operator of Experience Project, is immune from liability under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) because its functions, including recommendations and notifications, were content-neutral tools used to facilitate communications. The panel also held that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to show that Ultimate Software colluded with drug dealers on the Experience Project, and Ultimate Software did not owe a duty to plaintiff's son. View "Dyroff v. The Ultimate Software Group" on Justia Law
Patel v. Facebook, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order certifying a class of Facebook users who alleged that Facebook's facial-recognition technology violated Illinois's Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The panel held that plaintiffs have alleged a concrete and particularized harm that was sufficient to confer Article III standing where the statutory provisions at issue were established to protect plaintiffs' concrete interests in privacy, not merely procedural rights. In this case, the development of a face template using facial-recognition technology without consent invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by certifying the class; Illinois's extraterritoriality doctrine did not preclude the district court from finding predominance; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that a class action was superior to individual actions. View "Patel v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law
In Re: Google Inc. Cookie Placement Consumer Privacy Litigation
News broke in 2012 that Google’s Doubleclick.net cookies were bypassing Safari and Internet Explorer privacy settings and tracking internet-user information. Google settled FTC and state attorneys general lawsuits, agreeing to cease the practice and to pay $39.5 million in fines, without admitting wrongdoing. Plaintiffs' claims were consolidated into a putative class action, alleging violations of federal privacy and fraud statutes, California unfair competition and privacy statutes, the California constitution’s right to privacy, and California’s privacy tort law. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of all but the California constitutional and tort claims. The parties agreed to a settlement. The district court approved certification of an FRCP 23(b)(2) class and the settlement under FRCP 23(e). Under the settlement a cy pres award would be paid to organizations the defendant approved, primarily data privacy organizations that agree to use the funds to research and promote browser privacy. It also included class counsel’s fees and costs, and incentive awards for named class representatives. One objector argued that the cy pres money belongs to the class as compensation and challenged the choice of cy pres recipients because of their pre-existing relationships with Google and class counsel. The Third Circuit vacated, stating that the “cursory certification and fairness analysis were insufficient for us to review its order certifying the class and approving the settlement. The settlement agreement’s broad release of claims for money damages and its designation of cy pres recipients are particularly concerning.” View "In Re: Google Inc. Cookie Placement Consumer Privacy Litigation" on Justia Law
VirnetX Inc. v. Apple Inc.
VirnetX appealed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board's decision related to three inter partes reexaminations maintained by Apple and Cisco. In this case, the PTO concluded that Apple was not barred from maintaining its reexams by the estoppel provision of the pre-America Invents Act (AIA) version of 35 U.S.C. 317(b), and the Board affirmed the examiner's determination that the claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,418,504 and 7,921,211 are unpatentable as anticipated or obvious over the prior art of record. The '504 and '211 patents describe systems and methods for establishing a secure communication link between a first computer and a second computer over a computer network, such as the Internet. The Federal Circuit held that there has been a final decision entered against Apple that it has not sustained its burden of proving invalidity, and thus section 317(b) estoppel applied to the Apple reexams. Therefore, the court vacated the Board's decisions in the Apple reexams with respect to claims 1–35 of the '504 patent and claims 36–59 of the '211 patent and remanded with instructions to terminate. The court affirmed the Board's decision on all remaining claims of both patents in the Apple reexam not subject to section 317(b) estoppel and fully affirmed the Board's decision regarding the claims of the '211 patent in the Cisco reexam. View "VirnetX Inc. v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Intellectual Property, Internet Law, Patents, US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit