Articles Posted in Internet 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

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This petition for writ of mandamus arose in the context of a contested trademark action initiated by San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC) against petitioners, over the use of the mark "comic-con" or "comic con." The Ninth Circuit granted the petition and vacated the district court's orders directing petitioners to prominently post on their social medial outlets its order prohibiting comments about the litigation on social media, dubbing this posting a "disclaimer." The panel held that the orders at issue were unconstitutional prior restraints on speech because they prohibit speech that poses neither a clear and present danger nor a serious and imminent threat to SDCC's interest in a fair trial. The panel explained that the well-established doctrines on jury selection and the court's inherent management powers provide an alternative, less restrictive, means of ensuring a fair trial. View "Dan Farr Productions v. USDC-CASD" on Justia Law

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Verizon cellular and data subscribers filed a putative class action against Turn, a middle-man for Internet-based advertisements, challenging the company's use of "zombie" cookies. The Ninth Circuit granted a petition for writ of mandamus and vacated the district court's order granting Turn's motion to stay the action and compel arbitration. Applying Bauman v. U. S. Dist. Court, 557 F.2d 650, 654–55 (9th Cir. 1977), the panel held that the majority of the Bauman factors weigh heavily in favor of granting the writ where direct appeal was unavailable; prejudice was not correctable on appeal; and the district court committed clear error by applying New York's equitable estoppel doctrine, rather than California's, and by failing to apply California law correctly. View "Henson v. USDC" on Justia Law

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In order to be eligible for the safe harbor protection of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), the defendant must show that the photographs at issue were stored at the direction of the user. The Ninth Circuit filed an amended opinion reversing the district court's holding, on summary judgment, that defendant was protected by the safe harbor of the DMCA from liability for posting plaintiff's photographs online and vacating a discovery order. The panel held that the common law of agency applied to safe harbor defenses and that, in this case, there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators are LiveJournal's agents. The panel addressed the remaining elements of the safe harbor defense and vacated the district court's order denying discovery of the moderators' identities. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision that VidAngel had likely violated both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Copyright Act, and order preliminarily enjoining VidAngel from circumventing the technological measures controlling access to copyrighted works on DVDs and Blu-ray discs owned by the plaintiff entertainment studios, copying those works, and streaming, transmitting, or otherwise publicly performing or displaying them electronically. The Ninth Circuit held that the Family Movie Act of 2005 did not exempt VidAngel from liability for copyright infringement; VidAngel's fair use defense failed; the anti-circumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act covered plaintiffs' technological protection measures, which control both access to and use of copyrighted works; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by finding irreparable harm, by balancing the equities, and by considering the public interest. View "Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. VidAngel, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order approving the cy pres-only settlement arising from class action claims that Google violated users' privacy by disclosing their Internet search terms to owners of third-party websites. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving a cy pres- only settlement where the settlement funds were non-distributable; the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the superiority requirement was met because the litigation would otherwise be economically infeasible; the district court did not abuse its discretion in approving the six cy pres recipients; the district court appropriately found that the cy pres distribution addressed the objectives of the Stored Communications Act and furthered the interests of the class members; a prior relationship or connection between the cy pres recipient and the parties or their counsel, without more, was not an absolute disqualifier; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by approving $2.125 million in fees and $21,643.16 in costs. View "In re Google Referrer Header Privacy Litigation" on Justia Law

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A claim of genericness or "genericide," where the public appropriates a trademark and uses it as a generic name for particular types of goods or services irrespective of its source, must be made with regard to a particular type of good or service. Plaintiffs petitioned for cancellation of the GOOGLE trademark under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1064(3), based on the ground that it is generic. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Google, Inc., holding that plaintiffs failed to recognize that a claim of genericide must always relate to a particular type of good or service, and that plaintiffs erroneously assumed that verb use automatically constitutes generic use; the district court correctly framed its inquiry as whether the primary significance of the word "google" to the relevant public was as a generic name for internet search engines or as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular; the assumption that a majority of the public uses the verb "google" in a generic and indiscriminate sense, on its own, could not support a jury finding of genericide under the primary significance test; and plaintiffs have failed to present sufficient evidence in this case to support a jury finding that the relevant public primarily understands the word "google" as a generic name for internet search engines and not as a mark identifying the Google search engine in particular. View "Elliott v. Google, Inc." on Justia Law

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Mavrix filed suit against LiveJournal for posting 20 of its copyrighted photographs online. The district court granted summary judgment for LiveJournal, holding that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. 512(c), safe harbor protected LiveJournal from liability because Mavrix's photographs were posted at the direction of the user. In this case, when users submitted Mavrix's photographs to LiveJournal, LiveJournal posted the photographs after a team of volunteer moderators led by a LiveJournal employee reviewed and approved them. The court disagreed with the district court and concluded that the common law of agency does apply to this analysis and that there were genuine factual disputes regarding whether the moderators were LiveJournal's agents. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for trial. The court addressed the remaining issues that the district court addressed because these issues may be contested on remand. On remand, the district court must determine whether LiveJournal met the section 512(c) safe harbor threshold requirement by showing that the photographs were posted at the direction of the user, then LiveJournal must show that it lacked actual or red flag knowledge of the infringements and that it did not financially benefit from infringements that it had the right and ability to control. View "Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the developer of the computer code for the original John Madden Football game for the Apple II computer, filed a diversity action against EA, seeking contract damages in the form of unpaid royalties for Sega Madden and Super Nintendo Madden. The court concluded that the district court properly granted judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) to EA under the "intrinsic test" because the jury had no evidence of Apple II Madden or Sega Madden as a whole to enable it to make a subjective comparison. In this case, plaintiff's claims rest on the contention that the source code of the Sega Madden games infringed on the source code for Apple II Madden. But, none of the source code was in evidence. The jury therefore could not compare the works to determine substantial similarity. The court rejected plaintiff's argument that EA’s post-verdict Rule 50(b) motion for JMOL regarding the intrinsic test should not have been considered. The court also concluded that the district court did not err in dismissing the Super Nintendo derivative work claims where the Apple II and Super Nintendo processors have different instruction sizes and data word sizes; the court agreed with the district court that the jury could not have determined plaintiff's damages from the alleged breach to a reasonable certainty; and even if the district court erred, there was no harm because plaintiff's failure to introduce any source code precluded a finding that Super Nintendo Madden was a Derivative Work. Finally, the court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the claim that EA used development aids to create non-derivative works because the claim is unsubstantiated. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Antonick v. Electronic Arts, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, owner of a locksmith business, filed suit against Yelp, alleging that Yelp is responsible for causing a review from another site to appear on its page, providing a star-rating function that transforms user reviews into Yelp’s own content, and “caus[ing] [the statements] to appear” as a promotion on Google’s search engine. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230(c), “immunizes providers of interactive computer services against liability arising from content created by third parties.” In this case, the threadbare allegations of fabrication of statements are implausible on their face and are insufficient to avoid immunity under the CDA. The court also concluded that Yelp’s rating system, which is based on rating inputs from third parties and which reduces this information into a single, aggregate metric is user-generated data. Nor do plaintiff's arguments that Yelp can be held liable for “republishing” the same content as advertisements or promotions on Google survive close scrutiny. The court concluded that, just as Yelp is immune from liability under the CDA for posting user-generated content on its own website, Yelp is not liable for disseminating the same content in essentially the same format to a search engine, as this action does not change the origin of the third-party content. The court noted that proliferation and dissemination of content does not equal creation or development of content. View "Kimzey v. Yelp!" on Justia Law