Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

by
Luis, a resident of Florida, developed an online personal relationship with Ohio resident, Catherine. The relationship was apparently platonic, but Catherine’s husband, Joseph, was suspicious and secretly installed WebWatcher on Catherine’s computer to monitor her communications. According to Luis, WebWatcher and its manufacturer, Awareness, surreptitiously intercepted the emails, instant messages, and other communications between Luis and Catherine and disclosed the communications to Joseph, who used them as leverage to divorce Catherine on favorable terms. Luis filed suit and eventually settled his claims against all defendants except Awareness, against which he alleged violations of the federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. 2511-2512, the Ohio Wiretap Act, and Ohio common law. The district court dismissed, reasoning that concluded that Awareness did not “intercept” Luis’s communications because it was Joseph—not Awareness—that installed the WebWatcher program. The Sixth Circuit reversed, stating that the lower court failed to take into account the extent to which Awareness itself was allegedly engaged in the asserted violations, noting Awareness’s continued operation of the WebWatcher program, even after that program is sold to a user. Luis’s complaint sufficiently alleged that Awareness​ (via WebWatcher) acquires communications in a manner that is contemporaneous with their transmission. View "Luis v. Zang" on Justia Law

by
Tennessee and North Carolina municipalities that provide broadband service would like to expand their networks beyond their current territorial boundaries to underserved nearby areas. State laws either forbid or put onerous restrictions on such expansion by municipal telecommunications providers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), citing its statutory mandates to remove barriers to broadband service and to promote competition in the telecommunications market, issued an order purporting to preempt these state statutory provisions. The Sixth Circuit reversed the order, which “essentially serves to re-allocate decision-making power between the states and their municipalities.” No federal statute or FCC regulation requires the municipalities to expand or otherwise to act in contravention of the preempted state statutory provisions. This preemption by the FCC of the allocation of power between a state and its subdivisions requires at least a clear statement in the authorizing federal legislation. Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, cited by the FCC, states that the FCC “shall” take action to promote broadband deployment, but “falls far short of such a clear statement.” View "State of Tenn. v. Fed. Commc'n Comm'n" on Justia Law

by
O’Kroley googled himself and found “Texas Advance Sheet,” followed by “indecency with a child in Trial Court Cause N . . . Colin O’Kroley v Pringle.” O’Kroley was never involved in an indecency case; his case was listed immediately after such a case, on a service that summarizes judicial opinions. If users clicked the link they would see that the cases were unrelated. Claiming “severe mental anguish,” O’Kroley sued Google for $19,200,000,000,000, asserting “libel,” “invasion of privacy,” “failure to provide due process,” “cruel and unusual punishment,” “cyber-bullying,” and “psychological torture.” The court dismissed, citing the Communications Decency Act, which insulates interactive computer services from certain lawsuits, 47 U.S.C. 230. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Google is an interactive computer service, providing “access by multiple users to a computer server,” not the publisher or speaker of the allegedly defamatory content. A separate “entity [was] responsible . . . for the [content’s] creation.” Google cannot be held liable for merely providing access to, and reproducing, the allegedly defamatory text. “ Google performed some automated editorial acts on the content, such as removing spaces and altering font, and kept the search result up even after O’Kroley complained; these acts come within “a publisher’s traditional editorial functions.” View "O'Kroley v. Fastcase, Inc" on Justia Law