Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries

by
Coinbase is an online digital currency platform that allows customers to send, receive, and store certain digital currencies. Archer opened a Coinbase account to purchase, trade, and store cryptocurrency. On October 23, 2017, a third party launched a new cryptocurrency, “Bitcoin Gold,” Coinbase monitored and evaluated Bitcoin Gold’s network and informed its customers via its website: “ ‘At this time, Coinbase cannot support Bitcoin Gold because its developers have not made the code available to the public to review. This is a major security risk.’ ” In 2018, the Bitcoin Gold network was attacked by hackers who stole millions of dollars of funds from trading platforms and individuals on its network.Archer sued Coinbase, based on Coinbase’s failure and refusal to allow him to receive his Bitcoin Gold currency and Coinbase’s retention of control over his Bitcoin Gold. The trial court rejected his claims of negligence, conversion, and breach of contract on summary judgment. The court of appeal affirmed. Archer failed to establish the existence of an agreement by Coinbase to provide the Bitcoin Gold to him and failed to demonstrate Coinbase acted in any way to deprive him of his Bitcoin Gold currency. View "Archer v. Coinbase, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Plaintiff alleged claims of copyright infringement and copyright management information (CMI) removal based on an underlying controversy involving defendants' promotion of their own version of a honey harvesting product, which replaced one that plaintiff had invented and that defendants had sold for many years through a website defendants owned.The court held that plaintiff was not entitled to statutory damages or attorneys' fees, because the first allegedly infringing act occurred before the date of the copyright registration and no genuine issue of material fact exists concerning this issue. The court also held that plaintiff failed to establish a CMI removal claim under the DMCA, because "Fischer's" cannot be construed as a CMI with respect to the advertising text at issue because it is simply the name of the product being described. View "Fischer v. Forrest" on Justia Law

by
Teatotaller, LLC appealed a circuit court order dismissing its small claim complaint against the defendant Facebook, Inc. Teatotaller alleged that in June 2018, Facebook “deleted [Teatotaller’s] Instagram . . . account without notice.” Teatotaller further alleged that Facebook “sent two contradicting statements as to the reason for deletion and provided no appeal or contact to get more information.” Teatotaller alleged that Facebook “had a duty of care to protect [Teatotaller] from an algorithmic deletion as it hampers [Teatotaller’s] business” and that Teatotaller has “continue[d] to lose business and customers due to [Facebook’s] negligence.” In addition to seeking $9,999 in damages, Teatotaller sought restoration of its Instagram account. Facebook moved to dismiss, arguing Teatotaller's claims were barred under Section 230(C)(1) of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Furthermore, Facebook argued Teatotaller's complaint failed to establish the New Hampshire trial court had personal jurisdiction over Facebook. Following a hearing, the trial court granted Facebook’s motion, determining that the Terms of Use gave the court personal jurisdiction over Facebook, but also precluded Teatotaller’s claims. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined it was not clear on the face of Teatotaller’s complaint and objection whether prong two of the CDA immunity test was met, therefore the trial court erred by dismissing Teatotaller’s breach of contract claim on such grounds. The Court "simply cannot determine based upon the pleadings at this stage in the proceeding whether Facebook is immune from liability under section 230(c)(1) of the CDA on Teatotaller’s breach of contract claim." Though Teatotaller’s breach of contract claim could ultimately fail, either on the merits or under the CDA, the Supreme Court held that dismissal of the claim was not warranted at this time. View "Teatotaller, LLC v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After Strike 3's investigators recorded IP address 73.180.154.14 illegally distributing Strike 3's pornographic films via the BitTorrent network, the company filed a complaint against the IP address subscriber. However, because Internet service providers are the only entities that can link an IP address to its subscriber, Strike 3 could not serve its complaint without first subpoenaing the subscriber's ISP, Comcast, for information identifying the anonymous defendant. Strike 3 filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d)(1) motion seeking leave to subpoena Comcast for records identifying the John Doe IP address subscriber. The district court denied Strike 3's discovery motion.The DC Circuit reversed the district court's denial of the motion and held that the district court abused its discretion by assigning improper weight to what it viewed as the "aberrantly salacious nature" of Strike 3's films, by concluding that Strike 3 could not state a plausible claim for infringement against the IP address subscriber, and by drawing unsupported, negative inferences against Strike 3 regarding its litigation tactics. Because the court found that the district court abused its discretion in denying Strike 3's discovery motion, its dismissal for failure to state a claim is also reversed. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Strike 3 Holdings, LLC v. Doe" on Justia Law

by
A generic name—the name of a class of products or services—is ineligible for federal trademark registration. Booking.com, a travel-reservation website, sought federal registration of marks including the term “Booking.com.” Concluding that “Booking.com” was a generic name for online hotel-reservation services, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) refused registration. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court decision that “Booking.com”—unlike the term “booking” standing alone—is not generic.The Supreme Court affirmed. A term styled “generic.com” is a generic name for a class of goods or services only if the term has that meaning to consumers. Whether a compound term is generic turns on whether that term, taken as a whole, signifies to consumers a class of goods or services. Consumers do not perceive the term “Booking.com” that way. Only one entity can occupy a particular Internet domain name at a time, so a “generic.com” term could convey to consumers an association with a particular website. An unyielding legal rule disregarding consumer perception would be incompatible with a bedrock principle of the Lanham Act. The PTO’s policy concerns do not support a categorical rule against the registration of “generic.com” terms. Several doctrines ensure that registration of “Booking.com” would not yield its holder a monopoly on the term “booking.” View "Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V." on Justia Law

by
SM Kids filed suit against Google and related entities, seeking to enforce a 2008 agreement settling a trademark dispute over the Googles trademark. The agreement prohibited Google from intentionally making material modifications to its then-current offering of products and services in a manner that is likely to create confusion in connection with Googles. The district court concluded that the trademark assignment was invalid, and dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and held that the validity of the trademark was not a jurisdictional matter related to Article III standing but was instead a merits question properly addressed on a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a motion for summary judgment, or at trial. In this case, the district court erroneously resolved Google's motion as a fact-based motion under Rule 12(b)(1) and considered evidence beyond the complaint, as well as placed on SM Kids the burden of proving subject-matter jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "SM Kids, LLC v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

by
Personal Web’s patents share a largely common specification and claim priority to an abandoned patent application, which was filed in 1995. According to the specification, there was a problem with the way computer networks identified data in their systems. There was “no direct relationship between the data names” and the contents of the data item. Computer networks could become clogged with duplicate data, and the efficiency and integrity of data processing systems could be impaired. The inventors purported to solve this problem by devising “True Names” for data items. The system created a “substantially unique” identifier for each data item that depended only on the content of the data itself and did not depend on purportedly less reliable means of identifying data items, such as user-provided file names. PersonalWeb sued Amazon for patent infringement. After the district court issued its claim construction order, PersonalWeb stipulated to the dismissal of all its claims against Amazon with prejudice; the court subsequently entered judgment against PersonalWeb.In 2018, PersonalWeb filed dozens of new lawsuits against website operators, many of which were Amazon’s customers. Amazon intervened. The Federal Circuit affirmed a declaratory judgment that PersonalWeb’s lawsuits against Amazon’s customers were barred as a result of the prior lawsuit brought by PersonalWeb against Amazon. View "In Re PersonalWeb Technologies LLC" on Justia Law

by
The issue this case case, which stemmed from a late-night argument on Twitter among several high school students, presented to the Colorado Supreme Court centered on the applicable framework for distinguishing a true threat from constitutionally protected speech in the "cyber arena." R.D., a juvenile, was adjudicated delinquent for harassment by communication based on those tweets directed at another student that took place in the wake of a local school shooting. Put differently, the question was whether R.D.'s statements were "true threats." The Supreme Court held a true threat is a statement that, considered in context and under the totality of the circumstances, an intended or foreseeable recipient would reasonably perceive as a serious expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence. In determining whether a statement is a true threat, a reviewing court must examine the words used, but it must also consider the context in which the statement was made. Particularly where the alleged threat is communicated online, the contextual factors courts should consider include, but are not limited to: (1) the statement’s role in a broader exchange, if any, including surrounding events; (2) the medium or platform through which the statement was communicated, including any distinctive conventions or architectural features; (3) the manner in which the statement was conveyed (e.g., anonymously or not, privately or publicly); (4) the relationship between the speaker and recipient(s); and (5) the subjective reaction of the statement’s intended or foreseeable recipient(s). Because neither the juvenile court nor the court of appeals had the benefit of the framework announced by this case, the Supreme Court reversed judgment and remanded for reconsideration. View "Colorado in Interest of R.D." on Justia Law

by
The Pennsylvania Attorney General (OAG) charged Walker with forgery and computer crimes. The prosecutor and the lead investigator requested that Penn State produce Walker’s emails from her employee account. At Penn’s request, they obtained a subpoena. The subpoena was missing information regarding the date, time or place where the testimony or evidence would be produced, or which party was requesting the evidence. The subpoena was incomplete and unenforceable. The prosecutor offered the subpoena to Penn’s Assistant General Counsel, who instructed an employee to assist. After the OAG obtained Walker’s emails, the pending criminal charges were dismissed with prejudice. Walker filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court dismissed, citing qualified immunity because Walker did not have a clearly established right to privacy in her work emails. A Third Circuit panel affirmed, reasoning that Penn produced the emails voluntarily, rather than under coercion resulting from the invalid subpoena and was acting within its legal authority and through counsel.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Walker's amended complaint, alleging violations of the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701 (SCA). The SCA is inapplicable because Penn does not provide electronic communication services to the public. Penn acted within its rights as Walker’s employer in voluntarily disclosing her work emails. Penn’s search of its server to produce Walker’s emails is not prohibited by the SCA, regardless of whether its counsel was induced by deceit or knowingly cooperative. It is the law of the case that Penn consented to disclose Walker’s emails. View "Walker v. Coffey" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed a consolidated complaint on behalf of themselves and a putative class of people, alleging that internal Facebook communications revealed that company executives were aware of the tracking of logged-out users and recognized that these practices posed various user-privacy issues.The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs have standing to pursue their privacy claims under the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA), as well as their claims for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In this case, plaintiffs have adequately alleged that Facebook's tracking and collection practices would cause harm or a material risk of harm to their interest in controlling their personal information. Therefore, plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged a clear invasion of the historically recognized right to privacy. Furthermore, plaintiffs sufficiently alleged a state law interest whose violation constitutes an injury sufficient to establish standing to bring their claims for Computer Data Access and Fraud Act (CDAFA) violations and California common law trespass to chattels, fraud, and statutory larceny.On the merits, the panel held that plaintiffs adequately stated claims for relief for intrusion upon seclusion and invasion of privacy under California law. Plaintiffs have also sufficiently alleged that Facebook's tracking and collection practices violated the Wiretap Act and CIPA. The panel held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' SCA claims, because the allegations do not show that the communications were even in "storage," much less that the alleged "storage" within a URL toolbar falls within the SCA's intended scope. The district court also properly dismissed plaintiffs' breach of contract claim, because plaintiffs failed to adequately allege the existence of a contract. Finally, plaintiffs' claims for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing were rejected. View "Davis v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law