Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries

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Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a lower grandfathered royalty rate is paid by some music services that were early providers of digital music transmissions. Music Choice, a digital broadcast music service that consists of several cable television channels, challenges the Board's final determination, which excludes Music Choice's internet transmissions from the grandfathered rate and also adopts more stringent audit requirements.The DC Circuit held that the Board's categorical exclusion of Music Choice's internet transmissions from the grandfathered rate conflicts with the unambiguous language of the DMCA. The court explained that, pursuant to the DMCA, Music Choice's internet transmissions are eligible for the grandfathered rate to the extent they were part of its service offering on July 31, 1998. However, the Board retains discretion to determine whether parts of Music Choice's current service offering, which includes mobile applications and internet-exclusive channels, should be excluded from the grandfathered rate. The court also held that the Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously in altering the audit standards applicable to Music Choice. Therefore, the court vacated the relevant parts of the final determination, remanding for the Board to determine whether Music Choice's internet transmissions qualified for the grandfathered rate and to reconsider the amended audit procedure. View "Music Choice v. Copyright Royalty Board" 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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Plaintiff filed suit against BuzzFeed for using one of his photographs without crediting him in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). The district court awarded plaintiff statutory damages. BuzzFeed appealed, arguing that it did not know its conduct would lead to future, third-party copyright infringement.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's award of statutory damages and held that the plain language of the DMCA does not require plaintiff to prove that BuzzFeed knew its actions would lead to future, third-party infringement. In this case, the district court correctly applied the DMCA by finding that Buzzfeed, through its own journalist, distributed the photo knowing that plaintiff's gutter credit had been removed or altered without his permission and distributed the photo with a gutter credit reading "Fisher & Taubenfeld" knowing that doing so would conceal the fact that a BuzzFeed journalist did not have authority to use the photo. View "Mango v. Buzzfeed, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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