Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment dismissing an amended complaint against Snap based on immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(1). Plaintiffs, the surviving parents of two boys who died in a high-speed accident, alleged that Snap encouraged their sons to drive at dangerous speeds and caused the boys' deaths through its negligent design of its smartphone application Snapchat. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that Snapchat allegedly knew or should have known, before the accident, that its users believed that a reward system existed and that the Speed Filter was therefore incentivizing young drivers to drive at dangerous speeds.The panel applied the Barnes factors and concluded that, because plaintiffs' claim neither treats Snap as a "publisher or speaker" nor relies on "information provided by another information content provider," Snap does not enjoy immunity from this suit under section 230(c)(1). In this case, Snap is being used for the predictable consequences of designing Snapchat in such a way that it allegedly encourages dangerous behavior, and the CDA does not shield Snap from liability for such claims. The panel declined to affirm the district court's decision on the alternative ground that plaintiffs have failed to plead adequately in their amended complaint the causation element of their negligent design claim. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Lemmon v. Snap, Inc." on Justia Law

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A husband's unauthorized access into his wife's work emails—undoubtedly an invasion of her privacy—could also constitute a violation of the Stored Communications Act.After wife and her law firm employer filed suit against husband and his divorce lawyer, the other parties resolved their claims and wife filed a second amended complaint alleging one cause of action against husband under the Act. The district court granted summary judgment for husband because wife failed to show that the e-mails husband allegedly accessed were in "back up storage" as defined by the Act.The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's exclusion of a declaration submitted by plaintiff, concluding that the district court abused its discretion in disregarding the declarant's personal knowledge about wife's e-mail storage. The panel explained that the evidence does not require expert qualification where the declarant was employed with the IT company that services wife's law firm and the information he provides is far from technical.The panel held that the Act provides a private cause of action against one who intentionally accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided and thereby obtains, alters, or prevents authorized access to a wire or electronic communication while it is in electronic storage. Electronic storage includes storage for purposes of backup protection, which requires that there be a second, backup copy of a message. In this case, the declaration submitted by plaintiff created a genuine dispute of material fact with respect to whether the e-mails defendant accessed were entitled to protection under the Act. Finally, the panel agreed with the Fourth Circuit's recent rejection of any distinction between the protection afforded to "service copies," meaning those less conveniently accessible. The panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Clare v. Clare" on Justia Law

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Oracle, owner of the proprietary Solaris software operating system, filed suit alleging that HPE improperly accessed, downloaded, copied, and installed Solaris patches on servers not under an Oracle support contract. Oracle asserted direct copyright infringement claims for HPE's direct support customers, and indirect infringement claims for joint HPE-Terix customers. The district court granted summary judgment for HPE.The Ninth Circuit held that the copyright infringement claim is subject to the Copyright Act's three year statute of limitations, which runs separately for each violation. The panel explained that Oracle's constructive knowledge triggered the statute of limitations and Oracle failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into the suspected infringement. The panel also held that the intentional interference with prospective economic advantage claim is barred by California's two year statute of limitations. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's partial summary judgment for HPE on the infringement and intentional interference claims. The panel also affirmed in part summary judgment on the indirect infringement claims for patch installations by Terix; reversed summary judgment on all infringement claims for pre-installation conduct and on the direct infringement claims for unauthorized patch installations by HPE; and addressed all other issues in a concurrently filed memorandum opinion. View "Oracle America, Inc. v. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of an action alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition. Plaintiff AMA is a Nevada limited liability company that produces and distributes "adult entertainment over the Internet." Defendant is a citizen and resident of Poland, who operated ePorner, an adult video website, through MW Media, a Polish civil law partnership.The panel agreed with the district court that AMA has not met its burden of showing that defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in the United States under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2) (the long-arm statute). In this case, defendant lacks the requisite minimum contacts with the United States where the United States was not the focal point of the website and of the harm suffered. The panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying AMA certain jurisdictional discovery and declined to consider arguments about changes in European law for the first time on appeal that bear on AMA's entitlement to additional jurisdictional discovery. View "AMA Multimedia, LLC v. Wanat" on Justia Law

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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

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An objecting class member appealed from the district court's approval of a settlement between Facebook and a nationwide class of its users who alleged that Facebook routinely captured, read, and used website links included in users' private messages without their consent, and that these practices violated federal and California privacy laws. The district court found that the settlement was fair and approved it, granting in full class counsel's request for fees and costs.The Ninth Circuit held that the district court had Article III jurisdiction to approve the settlement and that this panel had jurisdiction to evaluate the fairness of the settlement. In this case, plaintiffs identified a concrete injury that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act protect; plaintiffs established standing to seek injunctive relief; and post-filing developments did not moot this case.The panel rejected the merits of objector's contentions that the district court abused its discretion by approving the settlement. The panel rejected the argument that the settlement was invalid under Koby v. ARS National Services, Inc., 846 F.3d 1071, 1081 (9th Cir. 2017). Rather, the panel held that, given how little the class could have expected to obtain if it had pursued claims further based on the facts alleged here (and, correspondingly, how little it gave up in the release), it was not unreasonable that the settlement gave the class something of modest value. The panel rejected objector's argument that the settlement was invalid under In re Bluetooth Headset Products Liability Litigation, 654 F.3d 935 (9th Cir. 2010), and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that none of the warning signs weighed against approval of the settlement. View "Campbell v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of PragerU's action alleging that YouTube and its parent company, Google, violated the First Amendment and the Lanham Act, as well as state laws, when YouTube tagged several dozen of PragerU's videos as appropriate for the Restricted Mode.The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the First Amendment claim, holding that, despite YouTube's ubiquity and its role as a public-facing platform, YouTube is a private forum, not a public forum subject to judicial scrutiny under the First Amendment. In Manhattan Cmty. Access Corp. v. Halleck, 139 S.Ct. 1921, 1930 (2019), the Supreme Court held that merely hosting speech by others is not a traditional, exclusive public function and does not alone transform private entities into state actors subject to First Amendment constraints. The panel explained that the Internet does not alter this state action requirement of the First Amendment.The panel also held that PragerU's false advertising claim under the Lanham Act also failed, because none of PragerU's alleged actions were actionable under the Act. In this case, YouTube's statements concerning its content moderation policies, as well as its designation of certain of plaintiff’s videos for Restricted Mode, do not constitute "commercial advertising or promotion." Furthermore, the panel stated that the fact that certain PragerU videos were tagged to be unavailable under Restricted Mode does not imply any specific representation about those videos. Finally, the panel wrote that YouTube's braggadocio about its commitment to free speech constitutes opinions that are not subject to the Act. View "Prager University v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit filed an order withdrawing its prior opinion and replacing the opinion with an amended opinion, denying a petition for panel rehearing, and denying on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc. The panel also filed an amended opinion reserving the district court's dismissal, as barred by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (DCA), of claims under New York law and the Lanham Act's false advertising provision.Enigma filed suit alleging that Malwarebytes Inc. has configured its software to block users from accessing Enigma's software in order to divert Enigma's customers. 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. The panel held that the phrase "otherwise objectionable" does not include software that the provider finds objectionable for anticompetitive reasons. In regard to the state-law claims, the panel held that Enigma's allegations of anticompetitive animus were sufficient to withstand dismissal.In regard to the federal claim, the panel held that section 230's exception for intellectual property claims did not apply because Enigma's false advertising claim did not relate to trademarks or any other type of intellectual property. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Enigma Software Group USA, LLC v. Malwarebytes, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to compel arbitration against plaintiff, a smartphone app user. The panel applied Washington state law and held that defendant did not provide reasonable notice, actual or constructive, of its Terms of Use and thus plaintiff did not unambiguously manifest assent to the terms and conditions or the imbedded arbitration provision. In this case, defendant did not notify users that the app had terms and conditions. Rather, a user would need to seek out or stumble upon defendant's Terms, either by scrolling through multiple screens of text before downloading the app or clicking the settings menu within the app during gameplay. View "Wilson v. Huuuge, Inc." on Justia Law

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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