Justia Internet Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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This case concerns the appeal of Gordon Grabau's sentence for receiving child pornography, with the appellant arguing that the district court erred in applying a two-level enhancement because he knowingly distributed child pornography. The United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, maintaining that Grabau, who was a field technician for a technology company and held a bachelor's degree in computer science, demonstrated superior knowledge about how software works. This knowledge, in conjunction with his use of the peer-to-peer file-sharing program BitTorrent and his possession of a large collection of child pornography, was deemed by the court as sufficient evidence that Grabau knowingly distributed child pornography. Therefore, the application of the two-level enhancement was found to be appropriate. View "United States v. Grabau" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, a survivor of childhood sex trafficking, filed a class action suit against a group of foreign and domestic corporations, alleging that they violated federal and California laws by distributing videos of her sexual abuse on the internet. The defendants included the owners and operators of two pornography websites based in the Czech Republic. The plaintiff argued that the court had personal jurisdiction over the foreign defendants under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2), which allows for jurisdiction over a foreign defendant if the claim arises under federal law, the defendant is not subject to jurisdiction in any state's courts, and exercising jurisdiction is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws. The district court dismissed the case, ruling that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the foreign defendants.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed in part and vacated in part the district court's dismissal. The court found that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case that the Czech website operators had purposefully directed their websites at the United States. The court also held that the plaintiff's claims arose from the defendants' forum-related activities, and that the defendants failed to show that the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be unreasonable. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the action against the Czech defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction.The court also vacated the district court's dismissal of nine additional foreign defendants. The district court had dismissed these defendants solely on the grounds that there was no personal jurisdiction over the Czech defendants. The appellate court instructed the district court to address on remand 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 Supreme Court of Nevada upheld a judgment from a lower court in a case involving extortion claims related to cryptocurrency. The case involves Christopher Terry, who sued Ava Blige, alleging she extorted cryptocurrency and money from him under threat of publishing his personal information. Blige failed to respond to court-ordered discovery requests, leading the district court to enter a default judgment in favor of Terry. The court found that Terry had established a prima facie case for conversion, unjust enrichment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, awarding him damages accordingly. The court also found that the factual allegations supported a claim for extortion, even though it was not specifically pleaded in the complaint. On appeal, Blige argued that the district court erroneously determined that she had impliedly consented to being sued under the unpleaded legal theory of extortion. The Supreme Court of Nevada agreed with Blige on this issue, stating that a defaulting party cannot be found to have impliedly consented to try claims that were not pleaded in the complaint. However, the court affirmed the lower court's judgment, concluding that Blige wrongfully dispossessed Terry of the cryptocurrency and money for cars through extortive acts under the theories of conversion, unjust enrichment, and caused him emotional distress. View "BLIGE VS. TERRY" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Eight, the plaintiff, a construction company, sued the defendant, a homeowner, for defamation after the homeowner posted critical comments about the company online. The homeowner had hired the construction company to repair her home after it was damaged by a fallen tree. Dissatisfied with the work, the homeowner reported the company to the Contractors State License Board and began posting negative reviews of the company on her blog and Yelp. In response to the defamation lawsuit, the homeowner filed a special motion to strike, arguing that her comments were protected by the litigation privilege. The trial court denied the motion, and the homeowner appealed.The appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision, holding that the homeowner's online posts were not covered by the litigation privilege. The court explained that the litigation privilege applies only to communications made in judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings that have some connection to the litigation. The homeowner's posts were public criticisms of the construction company, some of which did not even mention the Contractors State License Board. Therefore, the court found that the posts were akin to press releases and lacked the necessary connection to the proceedings before the board. The court also rejected the homeowner's arguments that the construction company failed to plead that her statements were unprivileged, that her statements were true, and that her statements were merely her opinions. View "Paglia & Associates Construction v. Hamilton" on Justia Law