Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Internet Law
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Plaintiffs, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (together, “NetChoice”)—are trade associations that represent internet and social-media companies. They sued the Florida officials charged with enforcing S.B. 7072 under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. They sought to enjoin enforcement of Sections 106.072 and 501.2041 on a number of grounds, including, that the law’s provisions (1) violate the social-media companies’ right to free speech under the First Amendment and (2) are preempted by federal law.   The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it preliminarily enjoined those provisions of S.B. 7072 that are substantially likely to violate the First Amendment. But the district court did abuse its discretion when it enjoined provisions of S.B. 7072 that aren’t likely unconstitutional.   The court reasoned that it is substantially likely that social-media companies—even the biggest ones—are “private actors” whose rights the First Amendment protects, that their so-called “content-moderation” decisions constitute protected exercises of editorial judgment and that the provisions of the new Florida law that restrict large platforms’ ability to engage in content moderation unconstitutionally burden that prerogative. The court further concluded that it is substantially likely that one of the law’s particularly onerous disclosure provisions—which would require covered platforms to provide a “thorough rationale” for each and every content-moderation decision they make—violates the First Amendment. However, because it is unlikely that the law’s remaining disclosure provisions violate the First Amendment, the companies are not entitled to preliminary injunctive relief with respect to them. View "NetChoice, LLC, et al. v. Attorney General, State of Florida, et al." on Justia Law

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An online promotions team posted thousands of videos to persuade people to buy BitConnect Coin, a new cryptocurrency. BitConnect coin was not a sound investment; it was a Ponzi scheme. BitConnect’s original investors received “returns” from the money paid by new investors. The promoters were siphoning off money. At one point, BitConnect was bringing in around $10 million per week in investments from the United States.Two victims of the BitConnect collapse filed a putative class action, alleging that the promoters were liable under section 12 of the Securities Act for selling unregistered securities through their BitConnect videos, 15 U.S.C. 77l(a)(1); 77e(a)(1). The district court dismissed because the plaintiffs based their case on interactions with the promoters’ “publicly available content,” the plaintiffs had never received a “personal solicitation” from the promoters. The Eleventh Circuit reversed. Neither the Securities Act nor precedent imposes that kind of limitation. Solicitation has long occurred through mass communications, and online videos are merely a new way of doing an old thing. The Securities Act provides no free pass for online solicitations. View "Parks v. BitConnect International PLC" on Justia Law

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Smith, a software engineer, obtained the coordinates of artificial fishing reefs in the Gulf of Mexico from a website owned by StrikeLines, a Florida business. Smith remained in Mobile, Alabama while posting information about the reef coordinates on Facebook. Smith initially agreed to remove the posts and to assist Strikelines with its security issues in exchange for additional coordinates but communications broke down. StrikeLines contacted law enforcement. Officers executed a search warrant and found StrikeLines’s coordinates and other customer and sales data on Smith’s devices. Smith was charged in the Northern District of Florida with violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2)(C), (c)(2)(B)(iii), theft of trade secrets, and transmitting a threat through interstate commerce with intent to extort. Smith argued that venue was improper because all the prohibited conduct occurred in the Alabama and the data that was accessed and obtained was in the Middle District of Florida.Smith was convicted on the trade secrets and extortion counts in the Northern District of Florida. The Eleventh Circuit vacated Smith’s trade secrets conviction and related sentencing enhancements for lack of venue, affirmed the extortion conviction and related sentencing enhancements, and remanded. Smith never committed any essential conduct for the trade secrets conviction in the Northern District of Florida. Sufficient evidence supported the extortion conviction. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The estates of some of the murder victims from the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, along with some of the injured, filed suit in federal court in Michigan against social media companies. The lawsuit was unsuccessful. A second action, this case, was filed in federal court in Florida against the same social media companies by different victims of the Pulse shooting. Here, plaintiffs alleged in part that the companies aided and abetted Omar Mateen, the shooter, in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) by facilitating his access to radical jihadist and ISIS-sponsored content in the months and years leading up to the shooting. Plaintiffs also alleged claims against the companies under Florida law for negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the ATA and state law claims with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court agreed with the district court that plaintiffs failed to make out a plausible claim that the Pulse massacre was an act of "international terrorism" as that term is defined in the ATA. Consequently, the companies—no matter what the court may think of their alleged conduct—cannot be liable for aiding and abetting under the ATA. In regard to the state law claims, the court concluded that plaintiffs have failed to adequately brief proximate cause under Florida law, and have therefore abandoned their challenge to the district court's ruling. Accordingly, the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' claims for aiding and abetting under the ATA and for negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death under Florida law. View "Colon v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law

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EWC, which runs a nationwide beauty brand European Wax Center and holds the trademark "European Wax Center," filed suit under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), against defendant, who used GoDaddy.com to register the domain names "europawaxcenter.com" and "euwaxcenter.com." EWC alleged that defendant registered his domain names with a bad faith intent to profit from their confusing similarity to EWC's "European Wax Center" mark.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of EWC, concluding that no reasonable juror could conclude that "europawaxcenter" and "euwaxcenter" are not confusingly similar to "European Wax Center" -- they are nearly identical to the mark in sight, sound, and meaning. View "Boigris v. EWC P&T, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Coral Ridge's complaint alleging a defamation claim against SPLC and a religious discrimination claim against Amazon. Coral Ridge alleged that SPLC is an Alabama-based nonprofit organization that publishes a "Hate Map,"—a list of entities the organization has characterized as hate groups—on its website. After Coral Ridge applied to be an eligible charity for the AmazonSmile program, Amazon denied its application because Coral Ridge is listed on the Hate Map as being anti-LGBTQ.The court found that Coral Ridge has not adequately alleged a state law defamation claim and that its proposed interpretation of Title II would violate the First Amendment. The court concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the defamation claim on the ground that Coral Ridge did not sufficiently plead actual malice. The court explained that Coral Ridge did not sufficiently plead facts that give rise to a reasonable inference that SPLC actually entertained serious doubts as to the veracity of its hate group definition and that definition's application to Coral Ridge, or that SPLC was highly aware that the definition and its application was probably false. The court also concluded that the district court correctly found that Coral Ridge's interpretation of Title II would violate the First Amendment by essentially forcing Amazon to donate to organizations it does not support. In this case, Coral Ridge's proposed interpretation of Title II would infringe on Amazon's First Amendment right to engage in expressive conduct and would not further Title II's purpose. View "Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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After a blog operator filed suit against a content aggregator for copyright infringement after the aggregator copied and published the blog's content, the jury ruled in favor of the blog operator. At issue is whether the district court should have allowed the jury to decide whether the aggregator had an implied license to copy and publish the blog's content.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that, although the district court employed a too narrow understanding of an implied license, a jury could not have reasonably inferred that the blog impliedly granted the aggregator a license to copy and publish its content. In this case, the district court erred by granting judgment as a matter of law against the aggregator on its implied-license defense; the district court did not err by instructing the jury that it could consider unregistered articles in its calculation of statutory damages; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the aggregator's motion for a new trial on the basis of the jury's statutory-damages award; the district court did not err by failing to consult with the register of copyrights about the alleged fraud on the copyright office; and the aggregator is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law on its fair-use defense. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment against the aggregator. View "MidlevelU, Inc. v. ACI Information Group" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Via Varejo in an action brought by Direct Niche under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), seeking to obtain a declaratory judgment that its registration and use of the domain name casasbahia.com was not unlawful under the ACPA. At issue on appeal was whether Via Varejo owned the Casas Bahia service mark in the United States. The court held that Via Varejo owns the Casas Bahia service mark in the United States where it contracted with U.S. companies to provide advertising of their goods on the Casas Bahia website. Furthermore, Via Varejo's marketing director testified to his personal knowledge that the Casas Bahia Website receives millions of visits every year from IP addresses located in the United States. Therefore, the district court's conclusion that the evidence demonstrated sufficient public use in commerce to establish ownership of the mark was not clearly erroneous. View "Direct Niche, LLC v. Via Varejo S/A" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), 18 U.S.C. 2710, alleging that the CNN App, without a user's knowledge, both tracks the user's views of news articles and videos and also collects a record of this viewing activity. CNN sends the collected record of viewing activity to Bango, a third party company. Bango is able to compile personal information, including the user's name, location, phone number, email address, and payment information, and it can attribute this information to a single user across different devices and platforms. The district court dismissed the amended complaint. The court held that a plaintiff, such as the one in this case, satisfied the concreteness requirement of Article III standing where the plaintiff alleges a violation of the VPPA for wrongful disclosure. The court agreed with the district court that plaintiff is not a "subscriber" as defined by the VPPA such that CNN may be held liable. The court noted that it need not address whether CNN provided plaintiff's "personally identifiable information" to a third party. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Perry v. Cable News Network, Inc." on Justia Law

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The parties filed cross-complaints after Christopher Carmicle was terminated from Brown Jordan. After the district court entered judgment for Brown Jordan, Carmicle appealed. Carmicle raised issues regarding the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. 1030, the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. 2701, wrongful discharge, and breach of an employment agreement. The court concluded that Carmicle’s CFAA arguments fail because Brown Jordan suffered “loss” as defined in the CFAA; Carmicle waived his unopened-versus-opened-email argument under the SCA because he did not fairly present it to the district court, and Brown Jordan showed Carmicle exceeded his authorization in accessing the emails of other Brown Jordan employees; and the district court did not err in granting summary judgment on Carmicle’s wrongful discharge claim or in concluding that Carmicle was terminated for cause as defined by the Employment Agreement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Brown Jordan International, Inc. v. Carmicle" on Justia Law