In a brief, unpublished opinion, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of right of publicity and privacy claims against a host of self-publishing platforms and service providers for distributing an erotic (and purported “less than tasteful”) book whose cover contained an unauthorized copy of the plaintiffs’ engagement photo because the plaintiffs failed to plead more than an “incidental” use of the photo by the service providers. (Roe v. Amazon.com, No. 16-3987 (6th Cir. Nov. 21, 2017) (unpublished)).
This dispute initially raised our interest because it raised the larger issues of how to define a “publisher” and “distributor” in the modern e-commerce environment and to what extent an ebook platform or print-on-demand service could be protected for distributing third-party content by the immunity provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (“CDA Section 230”). While we anticipated that such issues would get a full examination on appeal, the Sixth Circuit sidestepped these novel issues and decided the case on the merits of the privacy claims.