Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries

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In this case, Chad Michael Rider was convicted of three counts of producing or attempting to produce child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) and was sentenced to 720 months’ imprisonment. The evidence presented included numerous videos that Rider had taken of minors, in various stages of undress, in places where they expected privacy such as bathrooms. Rider appealed his conviction and sentence on several bases, including arguing that his conversation with police officers, where he admitted to setting up cameras, should have been suppressed, that expert testimony about his lack of pedophilic tendencies should have been admitted, that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions, that the jury instructions constructively amended the indictment, and that his sentence was unreasonable.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected all of Rider's arguments and affirmed his conviction and sentence. The court found that Rider was not in custody when he spoke to the officers, and so his statements were not involuntary. The court also found that there was no error in excluding the expert testimony, as it was not relevant to any element of the charges that the government had to prove. The court also found that there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions, as there was ample evidence that Rider had the intent and took the necessary steps to produce child pornography. The court also ruled that the jury instructions did not constructively amend the indictment. Finally, the court found that the sentence was not unreasonable, given the uniquely disturbing facts of the case and Rider's lack of remorse. View "United States v. Rider" on Justia Law

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In a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, six men affiliated with the transnational criminal organization MS-13 were convicted of sex trafficking a thirteen-year-old girl by force, fraud, or coercion, and conspiracy to do the same. The accused appealed the district court’s denial of their motions to suppress evidence obtained from Facebook warrants, arguing the warrants failed the probable cause and particularity requirements of the Fourth Amendment. One of the accused also appealed the district court’s denial of his motion for acquittal, contending that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction.The court held that the Facebook warrants were supported by probable cause, as they were based on substantial evidence linking the accused’s use of Facebook to their criminal activities. The court also held that the warrants were sufficiently particular as they identified the items to be seized by reference to the suspected criminal offenses and confined the officers’ discretion by restricting them from rummaging through the accused’s social media data in search of unrelated criminal activities. However, the court noted that future warrants enhance their claims to particularity by requesting data only from the period of time during which the defendant was suspected of taking part in the criminal conspiracy.The court rejected one appellant's sufficiency challenge to his conviction and affirmed his convictions, finding that substantial evidence supported the jury’s conclusion that he was guilty of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor under fourteen or of a minor by force, fraud, or coercion, and of conspiracy to transport a minor in interstate commerce with intent for the minor to engage in prostitution or illegal sexual activity.Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in all respects. View "United States v. Zelaya-Veliz" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, a victim of sex trafficking, brought a putative class action against various entities, including foreign-based defendants who operated websites on which videos of her abuse were uploaded and viewed. The district court dismissed the claims against the foreign-based defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and vacated in part, holding that the district court erred in its conclusion.The Ninth Circuit found that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case for the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over two foreign defendants, WebGroup Czech Republic, a.s. ("WGCZ") and NKL Associates, s.r.o. ("NKL"), which operated the websites. The court concluded that the plaintiff had shown that these defendants had purposefully directed their activities toward the United States, that her claims arose from these forum-related activities, and that the exercise of jurisdiction would be reasonable.The court based its decision on several factors. WGCZ and NKL had contracted with U.S.-based content delivery network services to ensure faster website loading times and a more seamless viewing experience for U.S. users, demonstrating that they had actively targeted the U.S. market. They also profited significantly from U.S. web traffic. Furthermore, the harm the plaintiff suffered—namely, the publication of videos of her abuse on the defendants' websites—had occurred in the U.S., and a substantial volume of the widespread publication of the videos occurred in the U.S.As for the remaining foreign defendants, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of them because it was based solely on the incorrect assumption that there was no personal jurisdiction over WGCZ and NKL. The court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine whether personal jurisdiction could be asserted against these additional defendants. View "DOE V. WEBGROUP CZECH REPUBLIC, A.S." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's order to compel arbitration and dismiss without prejudice a series of lawsuits against several sports goods e-commerce companies (the defendants). The lawsuits were brought by several plaintiffs, who were consumers that purchased goods online from the defendants and had their personal information stolen during a data breach on the defendants' websites. The defendants moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration provision in their terms of use. The appellate court held that the plaintiffs had sufficient notice of the arbitration provision and that the arbitration clause was not invalid under California law, was not unconscionable, and did not prohibit public injunctive relief. Furthermore, the parties agreed to delegate the question of arbitrability to an arbitrator according to the commercial rules and procedures of JAMS, a private alternative dispute resolution provider. View "PATRICK V. RUNNING WAREHOUSE, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over the use of electronic information evidence in a murder trial. The defendant, Christian Steve Campos, was charged with premeditated murder and convicted of second-degree murder. He argued that electronic evidence, obtained by the government from his Facebook account and cellphone records under the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (CalECPA), should have been suppressed because he was not properly notified of its acquisition. The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fifth Appellate District, agreed that the government did not properly notify the defendant pursuant to the CalECPA, but concluded that suppression of the evidence was unwarranted. The court also rejected a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and affirmed the judgment. The court found that while the government did violate the CalECPA's notice provisions, the purpose of the CalECPA was achieved despite the notice error because the efforts of law enforcement to obtain the defendant's electronic information were eventually made known to him before trial began. As a result, the court concluded that suppression of the evidence was not the appropriate remedy for the notice violations. View "People v. Campos" on Justia Law

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In this case heard by the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, Somayina Odiah, the defendant, was appealing his conviction for one count of indecent solicitation of a child. The defendant had been communicating online with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old transitioning from male to female named “Alice.” However, “Alice” was a fictitious character created by the Rhode Island State Police for an undercover operation. The defendant was arrested after arranging to meet “Alice” in person. The defendant's argument on appeal focused on the claim that the state had not proven that “Alice” was “over the age of fourteen,” a necessary element for the charged offense.The Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the conviction. It held that even if “Alice” had turned fourteen on the day of the charged offense, under Rhode Island law, a person reaches their next year in age at the first moment of the day prior to the anniversary date of their birth. Therefore, “Alice” would have been considered to be exactly fourteen years old on the day before the charged offense. The court concluded that the defendant was planning to meet a fourteen-year-old child, with whom he had communicated about sexual activity, and that the trial justice did not err in denying the motion to dismiss the charge on the basis of the state not proving "Alice" was "over the age of fourteen." Thus, the defendant's judgment of conviction was affirmed. View "State v. Odiah" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Kansas reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, which had overturned Mark Scheetz's convictions for aggravated criminal sodomy, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and victim intimidation. The Court of Appeals had ruled that the cumulative effect of various trial errors denied Scheetz his constitutional right to a fair trial. However, the Supreme Court found that the appellate court erred in its analysis, as Scheetz failed to make a timely and specific objection at trial to preserve an evidentiary challenge for appellate review as required by K.S.A. 60-404. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found the internet search history evidence was relevant to establish Scheetz's sexual desire for underage girls, a required element of the sexual exploitation of a child charge. The Supreme Court also concluded the prosecutor did not commit error in his closing arguments as the panel had determined. Consequently, the Supreme Court affirmed Scheetz's convictions. View "State v. Scheetz" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Best Carpet Values, Inc. and Thomas D. Rutledge initiated a class action lawsuit against Google, LLC. The plaintiffs argued that Google, through its Search App on Android phones, displayed their websites in a way that occupied valuable space for which Google should have paid. They contended that Google received all the benefits of advertising from the use of that space. The plaintiffs made state-law claims for trespass to chattels, implied-in-law contract and unjust enrichment, and violation of California's Unfair Competition Law.The court reviewed questions certified by the district court for interlocutory review. In response to the first question, the court ruled that the website copies displayed on a user's screen should not be protected as chattel, concluding that a cognizable property right did not exist in a website copy. As a result, the plaintiffs’ trespass to chattels claim was dismissed.Addressing the third question, the court held that website owners cannot invoke state law to control how their websites are displayed on a user's screen without being preempted by federal copyright law. The court determined that the manner in which the plaintiffs’ websites were displayed fell within the subject matter of federal copyright law. It also found that the rights asserted by the plaintiffs’ implied-in-law contract and unjust enrichment claim were equivalent to the rights provided by federal copyright law. Thus, the plaintiffs’ state-law claim was preempted by federal copyright law.Given these findings, the court did not address the other certified questions. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the district court erred in denying Google’s motion to dismiss and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss. View "Best Carpet Values, Inc. v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Chamber of Commerce and three other trade associations sued to stop the enforcement of a new state tax in Maryland known as the Digital Advertising Gross Revenues Tax Act. The law requires large technology companies to pay a tax based on gross revenue they earn from digital advertising in the state. The plaintiffs alleged that the Act violates the Internet Tax Freedom Act, the Commerce Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the First Amendment. The United States District Court for the District of Maryland dismissed three of the counts as barred by the Tax Injunction Act, which prevents federal courts from stopping the collection of state taxes when state law provides an adequate remedy. The court dismissed the fourth count on mootness grounds after a state trial court declared the Act unconstitutional in a separate proceeding. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the first three counts, but vacated the judgment to the extent it dismissed those counts with prejudice, ordering that the dismissal be entered without prejudice. The appellate court also vacated the dismissal of the fourth count and remanded for further proceedings, as the plaintiffs' First Amendment challenge to the Act's prohibition on passing the tax onto consumers was not moot. View "Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Lierman" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit partially affirmed and partially reversed a lower court's ruling in a case involving James McDonough, a citizen activist, who was banned from future meetings and arrested for disorderly conduct and cyberstalking by the City of Homestead, Florida. McDonough claimed these actions violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.The court determined that the city council meetings were designated public forums, and the ban was not narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest as required, thus violating McDonough's First Amendment rights.The court also found that the officers did not have probable cause to arrest McDonough for disorderly conduct, which involved swearing at officers and making obscene gestures. The court stated that such actions do not constitute disorderly conduct and are protected under the First Amendment. However, the court ruled that the City had probable cause to arrest McDonough for cyberstalking, as it was not unreasonable for the City to interpret Florida’s cyberstalking statute as barring McDonough from targeting one of its officers with his series of posts.The case was sent back to the lower court for further proceedings consistent with the appellate court’s opinion. View "McDonough v. Garcia" on Justia Law