Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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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

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Carello is blind. To access online visual content, he uses a “screen reader,” which reads text aloud to him from websites that are designed to support its software. Carello claims that the Credit Union website fails to offer such support. The Illinois Credit Union Act requires that credit union membership be open only to groups of people who share a “common bond,” including “[p]ersons belonging to a specific association, group or organization,” “[p]ersons who reside in a reasonably compact and well-defined neighborhood or community,” and “[p]ersons who have a common employer.” The Credit Union limits its membership to specified local government employees. Membership is required before an individual may use any Credit Union services. Carello is not eligible for, nor has he expressed any interest in, Credit Union membership. He is a tester: he visits websites solely to test Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, which prohibits places of public accommodation from discriminating “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of [their] goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations,” and requires them to make “reasonable modifications” to achieve that standard, 42 U.S.C. 12812(a), (b). The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Carello’s claim. Carello lacked standing to sue because he failed to allege an injury in fact. View "Carello v. Aurora Policeman Credit Union" on Justia Law

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A Zestimate is an estimated value for real estate, generated on the Zillow website by applying a proprietary algorithm to public data, such as location, tax assessment, number of rooms, and recent selling prices. Zillow does not inspect the building nor adjust for whether a property is attractive or well-maintained. Zillow states that its median error (comparing a Zestimate with a later transaction price) is less than 6%. The Zestimate is off by more than 20% in about 15% of all sales. Zillow informs users that Zestimates may be inaccurate. Plaintiffs learned that the Zestimates for their parcels were below the amounts they hoped to realize. Zillow declined requests to either to increase the Zestimates or remove the properties from the database. Plaintiffs sued, citing the Illinois Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Acts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal. The plaintiffs lack a private right of action under the appraisal statute, which makes unlicensed appraisal a crime; an administrative agency may impose fines for unlicensed appraisal and issue cease-and-desist le\ers that can be enforced by injunctions. Illinois courts create a non-statutory private right of action “only in cases where the statute would be ineffective, as a practical ma\er, unless such action were implied.” Given the multiple means of enforcing the licensing act, and the penalties for noncompliance, a private action is not necessary. The Trade Practices Act deals with statements of fact, while Zestimates are opinions. View "Patel v. Zillow, Inc." on Justia Law

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Starting in 2008, Sunmola carried out an online romance scheme from South Africa, targeting middle-aged women in Georgia and Illinois. Sunmola often used pictures of men in U.S. military uniforms in his online profile to gain the victims' trust; they made electronic fund transfers after his false claims of financial distress. Sunmola secretly recorded some victims in sexually suggestive positions, then sent extortion demands. Authorities also discovered evidence of credit card fraud affecting businesses. He was charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and interstate extortion. Authorities arrested Sunmola in London and transferred him to U.S. custody. Three days into his trial, Sunmola openly pleaded guilty to all counts, admitting to the essential elements of each offense. The judge accepted the pleas without a plea agreement. Applying several enhancements and considering other section 3553(a) factors, the district court sentenced Sunmola to 324 months in jail with an adjusted restitution payment of $1,669,050.98. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to a four-level “substantial financial hardship” sentencing enhancement, a two-level “vulnerable victim” adjustment, a two-level enhancement for acting on behalf of a government agency, and a four-level adjustment for acting as the organizer or leader. The court upheld the restitution calculation and application of general deterrence in his final sentencing. View "United States v. Sunmola" on Justia Law

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FanDuel and DraftKings conduct online fantasy‐sports games. Participants pay an entry fee and select a roster, subject to a budget cap that prevents every entrant from picking only the best players. Results from real sports contests determine how each squad earns points to win cash. Former college football players whose names, pictures, and statistics have been used without their permission sued, claiming that Indiana’s right-of-publicity statute, Code 32‐36‐1‐8, gives them control over the commercial use of their names and data. The district court dismissed the complaint, relying on exemptions for the use of a personality’s name, voice, signature, photograph, image, likeness, distinctive appearance, gestures, or mannerisms "in" material “that has political or newsworthy value” or “in connection with the broadcast or reporting of an event or a topic of general or public interest." The Seventh Circuit certified the question to the Supreme Court of Indiana: Whether online fantasy‐sports operators that condition entry on payment, and distribute cash prizes, need the consent of players whose names, pictures, and statistics are used in the contests, in advertising the contests, or both. Plaintiffs’ details on the websites are not necessarily “in” newsworthy “material” or a form of “reporting” and there is no state law precedent interpreting a statute similar to Indiana’s. The Supreme Court of Indiana may consider not only the statutory text but also plaintiffs’ arguments about the legality of defendants’ fantasy games and the possibility of an extra-textual illegal‐activity exception. View "Daniels v. Fanduel, Inc." on Justia Law

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FanDuel and DraftKings conduct online fantasy‐sports games. Participants pay an entry fee and select a roster, subject to a budget cap that prevents every entrant from picking only the best players. Results from real sports contests determine how each squad earns points to win cash. Former college football players whose names, pictures, and statistics have been used without their permission sued, claiming that Indiana’s right-of-publicity statute, Code 32‐36‐1‐8, gives them control over the commercial use of their names and data. The district court dismissed the complaint, relying on exemptions for the use of a personality’s name, voice, signature, photograph, image, likeness, distinctive appearance, gestures, or mannerisms "in" material “that has political or newsworthy value” or “in connection with the broadcast or reporting of an event or a topic of general or public interest." The Seventh Circuit certified the question to the Supreme Court of Indiana: Whether online fantasy‐sports operators that condition entry on payment, and distribute cash prizes, need the consent of players whose names, pictures, and statistics are used in the contests, in advertising the contests, or both. Plaintiffs’ details on the websites are not necessarily “in” newsworthy “material” or a form of “reporting” and there is no state law precedent interpreting a statute similar to Indiana’s. The Supreme Court of Indiana may consider not only the statutory text but also plaintiffs’ arguments about the legality of defendants’ fantasy games and the possibility of an extra-textual illegal‐activity exception. View "Daniels v. Fanduel, Inc." on Justia Law

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Thirteen Illinois municipalities claimed that the online travel agencies (OTAs), including Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity, have withheld money owed to them under their local hotel tax ordinances. The OTAs operate their online travel websites under the “merchant model”; customers pay an OTA directly to reserve rooms at hotels the OTA has contracted with. The participating hotels set a room rental rate. The OTA charges the customer a price that includes that rate, the estimated tax owed to the municipality, and additional charges for the OTA’s services. After the customer’s stay, the hotel invoices the OTA for the room rate and taxes and remits the taxes collected to the municipality. Contracts between hotels and the OTAs confirm that the OTAs do not actually buy, and never acquire the right to enter or grant possession of, hotel rooms. The municipalities claim that OTAs do not remit taxes on the full price that customers pay. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the OTAs. None of the municipal ordinances place a duty on the OTAs to collect or remit the taxes, so the municipalities have no recourse against the OTAs View "Village of Bedford Park v. Expedia, Inc." on Justia Law