Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Internet Law

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Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (DCA) immunizes software providers from liability for actions taken to help users block certain types of unwanted online material, including material that is of a violent or sexual nature or is "otherwise objectionable." Enigma filed suit alleging violations of New York state law and a violation of the Lanham Act's false advertising provision based on Malwarebytes Inc.'s configuration of its software to block users from accessing Enigma's software in order to divert Enigma's customers. The district court dismissed the action as barred by section 230's broad recognition of immunity. The panel distinguished Zango Inc. v. Kaspersky Lab, Inc., 568 F.3d 1169, 1173 (9th Cir. 2009), from this case and held that the parties here were competitors. The panel heeded the warning in Zango against an overly expansive interpretation of section 230 that could lead to anticompetitive results. Therefore, the panel held that the phrase "otherwise objectionable" does not include software that the provider finds objectionable for anticompetitive reasons. In this case, the panel held that Enigma's allegations of anticompetitive animus were sufficient to withstand dismissal. The panel also held that, although the Lanham Act itself deals with intellectual property, Enigma's false advertising claim did not relate to trademarks or any other type of intellectual property. Therefore, the district court correctly held that the intellectual property exception to immunity does not apply to the false advertising claim. Like the state law claims, the panel held that the district court read Zango too broadly in dismissing the federal claim. View "Engima Software Group USA, LLC v. Malwarebytes, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Internet Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of hiQ, a data analytics company, prohibiting LinkedIn, a professional networking website, from denying hiQ access to publicly available LinkedIn member profiles. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that hiQ currently has no viable way to remain in business other than using LinkedIn public profile data for its Keeper and Skill Mapper services, and that HiQ therefore has demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction. The panel also held that the district court's determination that the balance of hardships tips sharply in hiQ's favor was not illogical, implausible, or without support in the record; hiQ raised serious questions regarding the merits of its tortious interference with contract claim and LinkedIn's legitimate business purpose defense; hiQ also raised a serious question regarding whether state law causes of action were preempted by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; and the district court's conclusion that the public interest favors granting the preliminary injunction was appropriate. View "hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims against Ultimate Software, operator of the Experience Project website, for its alleged role in the death of her son. Her son purchased heroin from another user through the site and died of fentanyl toxicity from the heroin. The panel held that Ultimate Software, as the operator of Experience Project, is immune from liability under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) because its functions, including recommendations and notifications, were content-neutral tools used to facilitate communications. The panel also held that plaintiff failed to plead sufficient facts to show that Ultimate Software colluded with drug dealers on the Experience Project, and Ultimate Software did not owe a duty to plaintiff's son. View "Dyroff v. The Ultimate Software Group" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order certifying a class of Facebook users who alleged that Facebook's facial-recognition technology violated Illinois's Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). The panel held that plaintiffs have alleged a concrete and particularized harm that was sufficient to confer Article III standing where the statutory provisions at issue were established to protect plaintiffs' concrete interests in privacy, not merely procedural rights. In this case, the development of a face template using facial-recognition technology without consent invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by certifying the class; Illinois's extraterritoriality doctrine did not preclude the district court from finding predominance; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that a class action was superior to individual actions. View "Patel v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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VHT filed a copyright infringement suit against Zillow, alleging that Zillow's use of photos on its Listing Platform and Digs exceeded the scope of VHT's licenses to brokers, agents, and listing services who provided those photos to Zillow. The Ninth Circuit held that VHT failed to satisfy its burden of demonstrating that Zillow directly infringed the photos displayed on the Listing Platform, because VHT failed to provide evidence showing that Zillow exercised control; selected any material for upload, download, transmission, or storage; or instigated any copying, storage or distribution of the photos. The panel also held that VHT did not present substantial evidence that Zillow, through the Digs platform, directly infringed its display, reproduction, or adaption rights in 22,109 not displayed photos and 2,093 displayed but non-searchable photos. However, the fair use defense did not absolve Zillow of direct liability for 3,921 displayed, searchable Digs photos. The panel affirmed the district court's grant of Zillow's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict with respect to secondary infringement, both contributory and vicarious infringement. In regard to damages, the panel remanded to the district court for further proceedings as to whether the VHT photos remaining at issue were a compilation, and held that substantial evidence did not show Zillow was actually aware of its infringing activity nor was it reckless or willfully blind to its infringement. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "VHT, Inc. v. Zillow Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees in a copyright infringement action brought by a film production company, alleging that a single user illegally downloaded and distributed repeatedly American Heist, a Hollywood action movie. In Fogerty v. Fantasy, Inc., 510 U.S. 517 (1994), the Supreme Court laid out factors to guide discretion in whether to award fees. The panel held that the district court did not faithfully apply the Fogerty factors in this meritorious BitTorrent action. The panel noted that the district court's analysis of whether fees are warranted should be based on Glacier's case against defendant, and not on the district court's view of BitTorrent litigation in general or on the conduct of Glacier's counsel in other suits. Therefore, remand was necessary because the district court denied fees under the present circumstances based on a one-size-fits-all disapproval of other BitTorrent suits. View "Glacier Films (USA), Inc. v. Turchin" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action alleging that when Yahoo! invested in Alibaba.com, a Chinese retail website, Yahoo! violated the conditions of its exemption, granted by the SEC, from the registration requirements of the Investment Company Act (ICA). Plaintiff brought derivative claims against Yahoo!'s board of directors and certain corporate officers, as well as one direct claim against Yahoo!, under the ICA. The panel held that plaintiff failed to state a claim because the ICA does not establish a private right of action for challenging the continued validity of an ICA exemption. View "UFCW Local 1500 Pension Fund v. Mayer" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's summary judgment for defendants and its order denying attorneys' fees in a copyright case alleging infringement of pornographic content. The panel held that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor applied to defendants because the material at issue was stored at the direction of the users and defendants did not have actual or apparent knowledge that the clips were infringing. Furthermore, defendants expeditiously removed the infringing material once they received actual or red flag notice of the infringement, they did not receive financial benefit, and they had a policy to exclude repeat infringers. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in not exercising supplemental jurisdiction over a California state law claim, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an award of attorneys' fees to defendants. View "Ventura Content, Ltd. v. Motherless, Inc." on Justia Law

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Oracle filed a copyright infringement suit against Rimini, a provider of third-party support for Oracle's enterprise software, and Rimini's CEO. The Ninth Circuit affirmed partial summary judgment and partial judgment after trial on Oracle's claims that Rimini infringed its copyright by copying under the license of one customer for work performed for other existing customers or for unknown or future customers; reversed judgment after trial in regard to Oracle's claims under the California Comprehensive Data Access and Fraud Act (CDAFA), the Nevada Computer Crimes Law (NCCL), and California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), because taking data from a website, using a method prohibited by the applicable terms of use, when the taking itself generally was permitted, did not violate the CDAFA or the NCCL; reversed the determination that Rimini violated the UCL; reduced the award of damages based on Rimini's alleged violation of the CDAFA and NCCL; affirmed the award of prejudgment interest on the copyright claims; reversed the permanent injunction based on violations of the CDAFA; vacated the permanent injunction based on copyright infringement; reversed with respect to the CEO's liability for attorneys' fees; vacated the fee award and remanded for reconsideration; reduced the award of taxable costs; and affirmed the award of non-taxable costs. View "Oracle USA v. Rimini Street" on Justia Law

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"Personally identifiable information," pursuant to the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1998, 18 U.S.C. 2710(b)(1), means only that information that would readily permit an ordinary person to identify a specific individual's video-watching behavior. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that ESPN disclosed plaintiff's personally identifiable information in violation of the Act. Plaintiff alleged that ESPN violated the Act by giving a third party his Roku device serial number and by giving the identity of the video he watched. The panel held that plaintiff had Article III standing to bring his claim because section 2710(b)(1) was a substantive provision protecting consumers' concrete interest in their privacy. On the merits, the panel held that the information described in plaintiff's complaint did not constitute personally identifiable information under the Act. In this case, the information at issue could not identify an individual unless it was combined with other data in the third party's possession, data that ESPN never disclosed and apparently never even possessed. View "Eichenberger v. ESPN, Inc." on Justia Law