Third-Party Content

AutoAdmit

Date: 

06/08/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

John Doe I; John Doe II

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Anthony Ciolli; Mathew C. Ryan; Ryan C. Mariner; Individuals whose true names are unknown

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

District of Connecticut

Case Number: 

3:07CV00909

Legal Counsel: 

Marc Randazza (Ciolli); Charles E. Vermette, Jr.; Daniel J. Hoppe, Jr.; Orlando P. Ojeda, Jr.; W. Anthony Collins, Jr. (A horse walks into a bar); John R. Williams (AK47); Joseph G. Fortner, Jr.; Susan J. O'Donnell (Matthew C. Ryan, aka ".D")

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)
Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

Two female Yale Law School students, captioned as Does I & II, sued Anthony Ciolli, the former chief education director of the popular law school admissions forum, AutoAdmit, and a host of pseudonymous users of the forum over vulgar, sexually explicit, and threatening comments posted about them on the forum. In addition to making numerous derogatory and sexually explicit statements about the two students, pseudonymous users of the site created another website, t14talent: The Most Appealing Women @ Top Law Schools (now defunct), and posted photographs of one of the students without her permission. (Although the complaint is not entirely clear on this point, the student claims copyright ownership in these photographs in addition to publicity rights, indicating that she may have been the creator of the photos and posted them online.)

According to the complaint, the two students complained about the forum postings to the AutoAdmit staff, but AutoAdmit did not remove the material. Ciolli disputes that he had any authority to remove the offensive postings.

In June 2007, the two students sued in federal court in Connecticut, asserting claims of defamation, copyright infringement, unauthorized appropriation of name and likeness, unreasonable publicity given to another's life, false light invasion of privacy, and other torts. Soon after filing, they moved to proceed anonymously, and the court granted that request.

In August 2007, the plaintiffs moved to modify the court's scheduling order in order to give them time to investigate the identity of the pseudonymous defendants and to amend their complaint. The court granted the initial request and two subsequent requests for thirty-day extensions, the last of which was requested on October 4. According to a tip posted on David Lat's Above the Law blog, it is unlikely that the court will grant a fourth extension, so an amended complaint may be forthcoming relatively soon.

Update:

11/8/07 - Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint dropping Ciolli from the lawsuit.

1/24/08 - Plaintiffs filed a motion for expedited discovery seeking to uncover the identities of the pseudonymous posters listed in the complaint.

1/29/08 - Court granted motion for expedited discovery.

2/22/08 - Pseudonymous defendant "AK47" moved to quash the subpoena directed at AT&T requesting information about his identity.

3/2/08 - Plaintiffs deposed former defendant Anthony Ciolli, at which Ciolli acknowledged that his AOL Instant Messenger username is "AnthonyCiolli."

3/4/08 - Former defendant Anthony Ciolli filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania state court against the plaintiffs, their lawyers, and other defendants for wrongful initiation of civil proceedings, abuse of process, libel, slander, false light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with contract, and unauthorized use of name or likeness.

3/18/08 - Plaintiffs issued a subpoena to AOL seeking the names of "all persons who have registered or used" the username "AnthonyCiolli" and related information about the account, including "other user names and login IDs and/or Internet Protocol ("IP") addresses associated with the IM username 'AnthonyCiolli.'"

4/7/08 - Ciolli filed a motion to quash the AOL subpoena in federal district court in Virginia.

06/13/08 - The court denied AK47's motion to quash the subpoena seeking his identity from AT&T.

08/05/08 - Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that names Mathew C. Ryan (previously known by username ":D") as a defendant. Legal Satyricon "can confirm with 100% certainty that the guy in the complaint is neither an attorney nor a law professor."

8/13/08 - Defendant "a horse walks into a bar", a.k.a Ryan Mariner filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff's have stated no cause of action against him and that they have failed to prosecute the action against him despite offers to accept service made through counsel. 

9/10/08 - Plaintiffs filed papers in opposition to Mariner's motion to dismiss.

9/19/08 - The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia held that the plaintiffs' subpoena to AOL seeking the names of "all persons who have registered or used" the username "AnthonyCiolli" was facially invalid because it was issued from the wrong court.  The court determined that it should have issued from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Because the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction, it did not reach the merits of Anthony Ciolli's motion to quash

10/26/08 - Plaintiffs filed a notice of settlement and request for dismissal against defendant "Whamo."

3/31/09 - Pennsylvania federal court largely denied the defendants' motion to dismiss Anthony Ciolli's complaint in Ciolli v. Iravani, but gave defendants leave to renew their motion after jurisdictional discovery.  The court also struck certain allegations from the complaint relating to settlement negotiations in the Connecticut lawsuit. 

4/30/09 - Connecticut federal court denies Matthew Ryan's motion to dismiss. 

5/21/09 - Matthew Ryan files his answer to the second amended complaint in Connecticut federal court.

9/29/09 - Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Settlement and Request for Dismissal of Action Against Defendant ":D", A.K.A. Matthew C. Ryan

10/16/09 - Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of Action Against Remaining Defendants Without Prejudice by Doe 1, Doe 2

10/23/09 - Court dismissed case

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

TO DO: Monitor

Updated 6/16/09 - CMF

Updated checked on 08/05/2008. {MCS}

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

D'Alonzo v. Truscello

Date: 

04/05/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Tracy D'Alonzo; Russell D'Alonzo

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Nora Truscello

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County

Case Number: 

2004 No. 0274

Legal Counsel: 

William D. Kennedy, Edward M. Koch, Michael J. Plevyack

Publication Medium: 

Website

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

On February 3, 2004, the Philadelphia Daily News published an article reporting that two of State Senator Vincent Fumo's staff members had been subpoenaed as part of a federal corruption probe into the dismissals of thousands of parking tickets. The article indicated that staffer Tracy D'Alonzo was among the two aides subpoenaed. That same day, Nora Truscello re-published the Daily News article verbatim on her "gripe" site critical of Senator Fumo, www.dumpfumo.com.

The next day, the Daily News printed a retraction and reported that only one of Senator Fumo's aides had been subpoenaed (not D'Alonzo). Truscello also posted a retraction on her website.

D'Alonzo and her husband sued Truscello in Pennsylvania state court for defamation in April 2004. In February 2006, the court granted Truscello's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. The court relied on CDA 230, which provides immunity for publishing the statements of others online. This case is significant because the court applied CDA 230 even though Truscello was "active" in searching out, selecting, and posting the Daily News article, whereas most CDA 230 cases apply to website operators who "passively" allow users to post comment or other content on their sites.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

DiMeo v. Max

Date: 

04/12/2006

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Anthony DiMeo III

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Tucker Max

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania; United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; United States Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit

Case Number: 

No. 001576 (state); No. 2:06CV01544 (federal trial level); No. 06-3171 (federal appellate)

Legal Counsel: 

Michael Twersky

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Anthony DiMeo III, blueberry farm heir and operator of publicity firm Renamity, threw a New Years Eve party on December 31, 2005 that did not end well -- the district court judge referred to it as "the ... party from hell." Tucker Max, Internet celebrity and operator of www.tuckermax.com, hosts a forum on the aforementioned Web site in which anonymous posters ridiculed both the party and DiMeo himself. DiMeo sued Max for defamation in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, and Max then removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. See DiMeo v. Max, 433 F.Supp.2d 523, 533 (E.D. Pa. 2006). DiMeo added claims for violations of telecommunications-harassment statute 47 U.S.C. § 223(a)(1)(c) and for punitive damages, though the district court dismissed both with little discussion (the former primarily because it was based on a criminal statute that offered no private cause of action, and the latter because it was a legal remedy rather than a claim). The court similarly dismissed DiMeo's motion to amend his complaint, which the court saw as a futile attempt to repair the 223(a)(1)(c) claim.

Max filed a motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, which the court granted with prejudice. Following a typical analysis of a case governed by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. § 230), the court held that Section 230 barred DiMeo's defamation claim because: a.) Max, as the operator of the Web site and forum, was a provider of an interactive computer service; b.) DiMeo's claims treated Max as a publisher or speaker of information; and c.) the forum posts were information provided by a third-party content provider. The court noted that DiMeo did not allege that Max was the author of the disputed content, and thus it necessarily was third-party content. Because providers may not be treated as the publishers of third-party content under Section 230, dismissal was appropriate. DiMeo appealed the dismissal of the defamation claim and the dismissal of the motion to amend to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Update:

On Sept. 19, 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. In a short opinion marked "not precedential," the Third Circuit followed the district court's reasoning in finding TuckerMax.com to be an interactive computer service that was protected from liability for third-party speech under Section 230. As of Sept. 25, 2007, the case has not been appealed.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Greenbaum v. Google (Blogger)

Date: 

02/14/2007

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Pamela Greenbaum

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Google, Inc. (dba Blogger and Blogspot)

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Supreme Court of the State of New York for the County of New York

Case Number: 

0102063/2007

Legal Counsel: 

Paul Levy (Proposed Intervenor, OrthoMom); Tonia Klausner (Google)

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

The blog "Orthomom" is operated anonymously. Comments critical of Pamela Greenbaum, a Lawrence, Long Island School Board member, appeared on the blog in January 2007. Greenbaum objected to both primary blog content and a user comment.

In February 2007, Greenbaum filed a motion for "pre-commencement discovery" in New York state court, seeking to compel Google to disclose identifying information about the operator of the blog and a user. On February 22, 2007, the parties entered into a stipulation, in which Google agreed to produce the requested information by April 5, 2007, "unless a third party appears and objects to such production and unless otherwise ordered by the Court." The stipulation also provided for Google to deliver a copy of the order to the anonymous operator of Orthomom.

In late February 2007, counsel for Orthomom contacted the court and objected to disclosure. Orthomom then moved to intervene in the dispute and filed a brief invoking First Amendment protections for anonymous speech. The court granted the motion to intervene.

On October 23, 2007, the court denied Greenbaum's request for pre-commencement discovery and dismissed the lawsuit. In its order, the court recognized that the First Amendment protects the right of an anonymous poster to engage in speech on the Internet, and that courts must balance this right with the plaintiff's right to pursue a valid cause of action for defamation. The court expressed a willingness to follow the standard set forth in Dendrite v. Doe, 775 A.2d 756 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2001), in which a New Jersey appellate court held that a plaintiff must produce prima facie evidence on each element of its claim before a court will order discovery on the identity of an anonymous defendant. The Greenbaum court indicated that it was not necessary to decide the precise standard to be applied, however, because "the statements on which [Greenbaum] seeks to base her defamation claim are plainly inactionable as a matter of law." Greenbaum v. Google, No. 0102063/2007, slip op. at 3-4 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Oct. 23, 2007).

Specifically, the court held that statements by Orthomom criticizing Greenbaum's views and indicating that Greenbaum had "no interest in helping the private school community" were not susceptible of a defamatory meaning and constituted protected opinion. The court held further that the statement of an anonymous commenter that Greenbaum was a "bigot and really should not be on the board" was protected opinion. In a footnote, the court noted that because this statement was not actionable, it did not need to reach the issue of whether CDA 230 (47 U.S.C. § 230(c)) protected Orthomom from liability.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; MS Update with documents, 10-04-2007; to-do:

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Landmark Education LLC v. Ross

Date: 

06/25/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Landmark Education LLC

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Rick Ross Institute of New Jersey; Rick Ross

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

Case Number: 

2:04CV03022

Legal Counsel: 

Peter L. Skolnik - Lowenstein Sandler, PC

Publication Medium: 

Broadcast
Forum
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Landmark Education is a for-profit company engaged in the business of making "education programs" available to the general public and corporations, on subjects including communication, time management, and productivity. Its basic program is "The Forum" -- a three day/one evening seminar directed at "enhancing communication, creativity, and productivity for participants." Participants in the Forum may and are urged to take additional seminars given by Landmark and to recruit new participants for Landmark programs.

Rick Ross runs nonprofit websites, www.rickross.com , www.culteducation.com, and www.cultnews.com, through his non-profit entity, the Rick Ross Institute of New Jersey. The websites provide information to the public about cults and other controversial groups. On the website, Ross solicits contributions and sells his books and multimedia materials. Ross also operates a for-profit business "de-programming" the victims of cults, which is advertised on his sites.

Ross included Landmark on his list of organizations refered to as "controversial groups, some called 'cults," which included organizations such as the Aryan Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda.

Visitors to Ross's sites posted various anonymous "visitor comments" critical of Landmark that allegedly gave the impression that Landmark's programs are cult-like and present risks of physical or mental harm to participants. Other comments accused Landmark of "hypnotizing" and "braninwashing" participants, attempting "cult recruitment" and "mind control." Others indicated that the Landmark Forum "used bright fluorescent lighting with no windows, didn't allow food or drink in the room, and required such long hours," and that participants in the Landmark Forum who wanted to leave were met with "guilt, manipulation and implied threats" and those who did leave were "harassed" by Landmark representatives seeking to convince them to return. The sites contained a disclaimer displayed at the bottom of the visitor comments pages indicating that "the Rick Ross Institute, its Advsiory Board and/or Rick Ross do not necessarily endorse or support any of the views expressed within the documents, articles, reports, and testimonies archivied within this website, with the exception of those specifically so attributed."

Ross's sites also posted anonymously authored "personal stories" detailing unpleasant experiences that befell the authors or someone close to them during their participation in one of Landmark's programs. Some of these personal stories had provacative titles, including "This cannot be healthy emotionally" and "Landmark Education destroyed my life -- from the Forum to the psych ward." These personal stories included statements to the effect that Landmark's programs make a "deliberate assault on your mind," are a "form of mind control," and have "cult attributes."

The websites also hosted a number of articles by third-party authors concerning Landmark, with titles like "Brain Wash," "Mindbreakers," and "Microsoft Paid for Culty Clinics," which had been previously published in other publications.

Additionally, visitors to the websites' forum sections, writing under psuedonyms, posted a number of critical comments accusing Landmark of mind control, brainwashing, and the like. The websites posted rules relating to the forums, stating "the moderators of this forum will attempt to keep all objectionable messages off this forum, but it is impossible to review every message. All messages express the views of the author, and neither the owners of this forum, Cult Education.com, Rick Ross.com and/or developers of bulletin software, will be held responsible for the content of any message."

Ross's websites also included links to other websites containing negative content relating to Landmark. The links were accompanied by a disclaimer: "The Rick A. Ross Institute, its Advisory Board and/or Rick Ross do not necessarily endorse or support any of the views expressed within the linked websites listed at the Links page of this website."

At the time of the lawsuit, apparently a search for "Landmark Education" on Google produced Ross's websites on the results list.

Ross also allegedly made several statements to the news media radio shows, indicating that certain of Landmark's methods were "cult-like" and that participants of Landmark's programs had suffered negative mental health effects.

In June 2004, Landmark sued Ross and the Ross Institute in United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, asserting claims of product disparagement, tortious interference with ongoing and propspective business relations, trademark disparagement under the Lanham Act, consumer fraud and unfair competition under New Jersey law, and prima facie tort.

Ross and the Institute filed an answer in September 2004 without moving to dismiss. In it, they asserted various defenses, including that the statements were statements of opinion, the fair comment privilege, and lack of actual malice.

The details are not clear, but Landmark appears to have voluntarily dismissed the case in December 2005.

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do; further research required; get court documents, especially opinions on any rulings

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Subject Area: 

Donato v. Moldow

Date: 

07/25/2001

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Vincent Donato; Gina Calogero; Eric Obernauer; Lawrence R. Campagna

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Stephen Moldow; John Does 1-40; Jane Does 1-20

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County Law Division

Case Number: 

002-L-006214-01

Legal Counsel: 

Skrod & Baumann

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Subpoena Quashed

Description: 

Stephen Moldow established the website "Eye on Emerson" in late 1999. He posted information about local government activities, including minutes of meetings of the borough council, planning board and board of education. Public opinion polls were conducted on the site, which included approval ratings of local elected officials. The site included a discussion forum, in which any user could post messages, either with attribution or anonymously.

Unknown users of the website posted comments on the forum under pseudonyms criticizing Vincent Donato and Gina A. Calogero, elected members of the Emerson Borough Council, and other local public officials. One comment indicated that Donato was "emotionally and mentally unstable and in need of psychiatric help, ready to explode and should be on medication." Another stated that Calogero used illegal drugs.

Donato, Calogero and other officials sued Moldow for defamation and other torts in New Jersey state court, claiming that he was responsible for the messages as a publisher. The plaintiffs subpoenaed the Internet service provider that hosted the website, seeking the identities of the unknown posters. The Public Citizen Litigation Group and the ACLU submitted an amicus curiae brief to address the First Amendment and Due Process rights of the anonymous posters who were not represented by counsel in the case. The court quashed the subpoena because the plaintiffs failed to meet the requirements of an important New Jersey opinion, Dendrite International, Inc. v. Doe, 342 N.J. Super. 134 (N.J. App. Div. 2001). The plaintiffs abandoned their claims against the anonymous posters.

The trial court later dismissed the complaint against Moldow on CDA 230 grounds, and the appeals court affirmed. See Donato v. Moldow, 865 A.2d 711, 713 (N.J. Super. Ct. 2005).

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; to-do: get more court documents

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Software Development and Investment v. Wall

Date: 

08/11/2005

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Software Development and Investment of Nevada

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Aaron Wall; John Does

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

District Court, Clark County, Nevada; United States District Court for the District of Nevada

Case Number: 

05-A-508400-C (State); 2:05-CV-01109-RLH-LRL (Federal)

Legal Counsel: 

Ariel Stern, R. Douglas Kurdziel

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

In August 2005, Software Development and Investment of Nevada ("Software Development"), a Nevada corporation in the business of "internet advertising and internet placement optimization" under the name Traffic-Power.com, sued Aaron Wall and an unknown number of anonymous users of Wall's blog for libel and misappropriation of trade secrets. At the time of the suit, Wall was a Pennsylvania resident and a blogger who wrote about search engine optimization on his blog, "SEO Book.com."

According to Software Development's complaint in Nevada state court, a number of unknown persons disseminated information about its marketing strategy and solicitation procedures over the internet. These unknown persons allegedly posted this proprietary information on Wall's blog and other "publicly available areas of the internet."

The complaint also alleged that Wall and his anonymous co-defendants published false and defamatory statements about it and its business over the internet. The complaint did not specify any statements, but an opinion from the federal district court during the litigation identified the following statements that Software Development contended were defamatory:

  • a statement that Software Development is among a group of people that Wall considered "fraudsters and hucksters";
  • a statement that Software Development's website had been "banned by the search engines";
  • a statement that Software Development used "idiotic high pressure salesmen" to sell its "shit services";
  • a statement that Software Development's services "suck";
  • a statement that people who buy Software Development's services get "screwed"; and
  • a statement that Wall would "need to shower at least 6 times a day" if he worked for "a company as dirty" as Software Development.

Wall also allegedly linked to other sites that made disparaging comments about Software Development. Software Dev. & Inv. v. Wall, No. 2:05-cv-01109, slip op., at 2 (D. Nev. Feb. 13, 2006).

In September 2005, Wall removed the lawsuit to federal court. He later moved to dismiss, and the federal court dismissed the action in February 2006, holding that it had no personal jurisdiction over Wall. Software Dev. & Inv. v. Wall, No. 2:05-cv-01109, slip op. (D. Nev. Feb. 13, 2006).

In its order, the court concluded, among other things, that Wall's blog was "passive" despite the ability of reader's to post comments. Id. at 3. The determination of a website's "passive" or "active" character is important in the legal analysis because the more "active" a site is with respect to a state's citizens, the more justification there is for that state to assert personal jurisdiction over it. The court also concluded that there was no evidence that Wall had "expressly aimed the offensive communications at the Sate of Nevada, knowing that the communications would cause harm to Plaintiff in Nevada." Id. at 7. The court never reached the CDA 230 issue.

In its order dismissing the case, the court gave Software Development permission to file an amended complaint, but Software Development did not do so, and the case was dismissed for want of prosecution in June 2007.

Jurisdiction: 

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Boulder County Sheriff v. MySpace

Date: 

11/11/2006

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Boulder County Sheriff

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

MySpace

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

MySpace provided records subpoenaed by the Boulder County sheriff's department in a criminal libel investigation, commenced after a Colorado woman reported finding pictures of herself on MySpace under a fake profile named "Dirty Whore" that included information indicating that she was interested in meeting "men, women and/or couples who are looking to have a fun time."

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; there is almost nothing available on this as far as I can tell. TO-DO: Get more precise date; further research required

Content Type: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Subject Area: 

French Court Finds DailyMotion Liable For Copyright Infringement

Written by Kyle Junik, CMLP Intern

Brad Spitz reports in his blog that a French court held DailyMotion liable for copyright infringement, despite concluding that the site was a mere "hosting service." DailyMotion is an online video-sharing site similar to YouTube. In a July 13 ruling (in French), the court went out of its way to label DailyMotion a hosting service, an argument DailyMotion itself put forth. In France, hosting services typically enjoy a safe harbor from the infringing acts of users under the French Act of 21 June 2004 on Confidence in the Digital Environment (in French). The Act implements the European Commission directive on electronic commerce and states in part:

Where an information society service is provided that consists of the storage of information provided by a recipient of the service, Member States shall ensure that the service provider is not liable for the information stored at the request of a recipient of the service, on condition that:

(a) the provider does not have actual knowledge of illegal activity or information and, as regards claims for damages, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which illegal activity or information is apparent; and
(b) the provider, upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information.

The court found DailyMotion was aware of the infringing content, in part because the site deliberately furnished the users with the means to commit the acts of infringement. The court stated that the Act's limitation on liability is not available when the infringing activities are created or induced by the provider itself. DailyMotion has appealed.

Notably, the language of the French Act is almost identical to the safe-harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) codified at 17 U.S.C. Sec. 512(c). Google (on behalf of its popular video-sharing site, YouTube) frequently invokes the DMCA safe-harbor provisions as a defense to copyright infringement claims brought against it. At the end of the day, the French court ruling has no direct effect on any U.S. court's interpretation of the DMCA, but it may cause Google to reassess its stance on its liability via YouTube.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Fingerprinting and Citizen Journalism

Editor & Publisher details a new venture between the Associated Press and Attributor, a service provider that will fingerprint and track the use of AP content on the web.

The Associated Press is moving to protect its content by partnering with the technology company Attributor, which will track AP material across the Internet. The arrangement will allow Attributor to "fingerprint" AP copy down to a level where it can be identified anywhere on the Web.

"Our goal is to get a feeling for some of the useful ways to monitor content," said Srinandan Kasi, vice president, general counsel and secretary at the AP. "We are looking at it not just to protect our rights but to derive some intelligence."

Subject Area: 

Poynter Article on Legal Risks for User Comments

Poynter Online has a useful article up on assessing the legal risks faced by sites that publish user comments.  The piece, while focused on traditional media organizations, provides some useful guidelines for anyone who runs a site that includes user submitted material.

According to attorney Robb Harvey, who is interviewed for the article,

Subject Area: 

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