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Category Archives: Online Content

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Trade Dress Can Be Viable Means of Protecting Websites from Competitor’s Look-Alike Sites

Somewhere between a well-recognized website design like Google’s home page and a fledgling e-commerce venture built with free web building software lives most other websites.  Depending on the investment in the development and the operator’s design ethic, some websites may display unique, distinctive portals that are key to attracting and retaining customers.  For those with … Continue Reading

The First Amendment Goes Digital – Clicking “Like” on Facebook is Speech

With around 1.15 billion members, Facebook is a massive, global forum for communicating with friends and the world.  For many users, it often feels as if their news feeds are clogged with vapid comments about the weather, meal choices or the ever-present need for coffee.  But under other circumstances, such as the Arab Spring or … Continue Reading

New California Law Impacts Use of Information from Minors, Offers Right to Delete

Law Targets Sites and Mobile Apps Directed to Minors, Offers “Online Eraser”      Likely to Have Nationwide Effect On July 1st of this year, new amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule (COPPA Rule) came into effect, with perhaps the most pronounced changes being the expansion of COPPA to apply to geolocation … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Affirms ‘Dirtiest Hotel’ Defamation Ruling

We previously wrote about a Tennessee district court’s decision holding that a hotel’s inclusion at the top of the 2011 TripAdvisor “Dirtiest Hotels” list constituted hyperbolic opinion and rhetorical exaggeration, and thus was not actionable under Tennessee defamation law.  This past month, a circuit court upheld the ruling. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the … Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit to Construe Scope of CDA Section 230 Immunity on Appeal of Unusual Jones v. Dirty World Decision

How can a website operator lose the broad immunity for liability associated with user-generated content conferred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA)? Section 230 has been consistently interpreted by most courts to protect website operators against claims arising out of third-party content, despite some less than honorable conduct by operators.  See, for … Continue Reading

Assignment of Copyright through Terms of Use: Does E-Sign Make It OK? A Tool for B2B Sites Dealing with Unauthorized Access to Their Content?

It is a common practice for Web site providers who accept submissions of user-generated content to include a license provision in their “Terms of Use” to obtain rights to use the content. Rather than relying on the uncertain scope of an implied license, the provider can clarify, and hopefully avoid disputes over, the scope of … Continue Reading

This Is One of the Top Ten Best Blog Posts Ever Written about Online Defamation

UPDATE: On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s grant of TripAdvisor’s motion to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiff could not prove falsity on its defamation claim because the placement of hotels on TripAdvisor’s list constituted protected opinion.  The opinion is discussed in a follow-up post. Although we have confidence in the quality of … Continue Reading

State Appeals Court Concludes Employer Not Protected by CDA Section 230 in Employee Stalking Case, and Seems to Shrink the Statute along the Way

An Illinois state appeals court recently held that although an employer that provided network connectivity to its employees is an “interactive service provider” under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the statute does not protect the employer from negligent supervision claims based upon the employee’s alleged use of the network to communicate threats to … Continue Reading

Service Provider’s Intent in Removing Positive Reviews Irrelevant in Assessing Availability of CDA Section 230 Protection

A lawsuit against consumer review site Yelp! has yielded an opinion that demonstrates the breadth of the protection afforded interactive service providers under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. In Levitt v. Yelp! Inc., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124082 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 26, 2011), a group of putative class action plaintiffs filed an action … Continue Reading

New York High Court Splits on Applicability of Communications Decency Act Section 230 to Online Forum Operator

A divided New York Court of Appeals ruled on June 14, 2011, that an online forum administrator’s additions to an allegedly defamatory post by a user are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Shiamili v. The Real Estate Group of New York, Inc., No. 105, (N.Y. June 14, 2011). This is the … Continue Reading

Internet Financial News Aggregator Enjoined under New York Hot News Misappropriation Law

Electronic technologies have greatly reduced the costs of distributing information, but for content owners, that’s been a mixed blessing. Just as their costs of content distribution have shrunk and their ease of distribution has increased, the same is true for parties who obtain and redistribute that content unlawfully, to the competitive disadvantage of the content … Continue Reading

Advertiser Protection under CDA Section 230 for User-Generated Online Contest Submissions Will Go to Jury

A hard-fought battle between two sandwich franchises has yielded an opinion dealing with the application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to videos submitted as part of an online contest. The result is an unusual ruling that sends to a jury the issue of whether the advertiser that sponsored the contest was an … Continue Reading

Federal Rule Bars Post-Judgment Injunctive Relief against Web Site for Third-Party Defamatory Posts

We have previously described as "robust," the protection afforded interactive service providers from liability for defamatory contents posted by third parties by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.  But in Blockowitz v. Williams, 1:09-cv-03955 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 21, 2009), involving post-judgment efforts to have defamatory postings removed from a consumer complaint Web site ,  … Continue Reading

Barnes v. Yahoo! Opinion on Remand a Caution to Web Site Operators: Don’t Let Employees Make Promises That They Can’t Keep

 To the great frustration of plaintiffs and their attorneys, and even some judges, courts have construed Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in such a way as to make it virtually impossible to hold a Web site operator liable for defamatory material that is posted on the site by a third party, even if … Continue Reading

CDA Section 230: The Law That Judges Love to Hate Takes a Hit

UPDATE:  The Ninth Circuit issued an amended opinion on June 22, 2009, see discussion below. The amended opinion included an order denying the parties’ petitions for rehearing and rehearing en banc. Many attempts have been made to plead around the immunity provided to interactive computer services under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and … Continue Reading

Emerging Media Meets Common Law Writ in Federal Court. Result: No Webcasting for You!

The copyright lawsuits brought by record company plaintiffs to redress file-sharing have yielded many decisions of first impression. However, the recent ruling by the First Circuit in In re Sony BMG, Inc. (1st Cir. Apr. 16, 2009)  is one of the few that is of interest not just to copyright litigators, but scholars of appellate … Continue Reading

Xcentric Ventures (a/k/a/ “the Ripoff Report”) Seeks Ninth Circuit Ruling on Standard for Unmasking Anonymous Posters

The “Ripoff Report” consumer complaint Web site is well known to those who follow rulings involving the application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, including some who self-identity as “Section 230 junkies.” Xcentric Ventures, the operator of the Ripoff Report, and its founder Ed Magedson have been serial defendants in defamation cases brought … Continue Reading

Want Some Hot News? AP Hot News Case against Online News Aggregator Survives Motion to Dismiss

The cause of action for misappropriation of reports of breaking news, i.e., “hot news” misappropriation, has been around for going on a century, since the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in International News Service v. Associated Press, 248 U.S. 215 (1918). In that landmark case the Court recognized a “quasi property” right in such reports on … Continue Reading
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