Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Internet Law
Carlos Ramirez v. The Paradies Shops, LLC
Plaintiff worked for a company later acquired by the Paradies Shops. He, like many employees, entrusted his employer with sensitive, personally identifiable information (PII). In October 2020, Paradies suffered a ransomware attack on its administrative systems in which cybercriminals obtained the Social Security numbers of Plaintiff and other current and former employees. Shortly after learning of the data breach, Plaintiff brought claims for negligence and breach of implied contract on behalf of himself and those affected by the data breach, arguing Paradies should have protected the PII. He now appeals from the district court’s order granting Paradies’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. He contends the district court demanded too much at the pleadings stage. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the breach of implied contract claim and reversed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s negligence claim, and remanded for further proceedings. The court explained that, as the Georgia Supreme Court has noted, “traditional tort law is a rather blunt instrument for resolving all of the complex tradeoffs at issue in a case such as this, tradeoffs that may well be better resolved by the legislative process.” Nevertheless, having applied Georgia’s traditional tort principles, the court concluded Plaintiff has pled facts giving rise to a duty of care on the part of Paradies. Getting past summary judgment may prove a tougher challenge, but Plaintiff has pled enough for his negligence claim to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. View "Carlos Ramirez v. The Paradies Shops, LLC" on Justia Law
TocMail Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation
Microsoft Corporation offers email security software to shield users from cyber threats. TocMail, Inc. is a relative newcomer to the cybersecurity scene and offers a product geared towards a specific type of threat called Internet Protocol (IP) evasion. TocMail sued Microsoft for false advertising—all within two months. In its complaint, TocMail alleged that Microsoft misled the public into believing that Microsoft’s product offered protection from IP evasion. And TocMail—who had been selling its product for two months, spent almost nothing on advertising and had not made a single sale—alleged billions of dollars in lost profits. TocMail brought two counts: false and misleading advertising under the Lanham Act (count one); and contributory false and misleading advertising under the Lanham Act. The district court entered summary judgment for Microsoft. The Eleventh Circuit vacated the district court’s summary judgment order and remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss this case without prejudice for lack of standing. The court explained that to establish an injury, in fact, a plaintiff must show “an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized; and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” The court wrote that TocMail failed to meet this standard because TocMail has offered no evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that it suffered any injury. TocMail didn’t offer testimony from any witness saying that he or she would have purchased TocMail’s product if not for Microsoft’s advertising. TocMail didn’t offer any expert testimony calculating TocMail’s lost sales from consumers who went with Microsoft. View "TocMail Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation" on Justia Law
SkyHop Technologies, Inc., et al. v. Praveen Narra, et al.
Plaintiffs SkyHop Global, LLC, SkyHop Technologies, Inc. (collectively, “SkyHop”) and Defendant company owner and his company Indyzen, Inc. (collectively, “Indyzen”) have developed and deployed digital software aimed at transporting crew members to and from airports across the country. SkyHop has about eighty contracts with fifteen airlines, including major carriers like Delta, American, and United. SkyHop and Indyzen dispute who owns the digital software. And beyond that, they disagree on where their dispute should be decided. Indyzen has filed an arbitration action in California (where it is based), alleging various forms of breach of contract and other promises. Meanwhile, SkyHop has filed a federal lawsuit in Florida (where it is based), alleging that Indyzen violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) and the Florida Computer Abuse and Data Recovery Act (“CADRA”). In response, Indyzen sought to dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court entered an order dismissing SkyHop’s complaint. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s order. The court reasoned that the allegations in SkyHop’s complaint suggest that SkyHop is the rightful owner of the digital software. And because Indyzen has refused to relinquish possession of the digital software without additional payment, SkyHop’s complaint states a cause of action under the CFAA. The complaint therefore satisfies the Florida long-arm statute. And it also meets the requirements of the Due Process Clause because the emails that Indyzen sent into Florida triggered SkyHop’s claims. View "SkyHop Technologies, Inc., et al. v. Praveen Narra, et al." on Justia Law
NetChoice, LLC, et al. v. Attorney General, State of Florida, et al.
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
Parks v. BitConnect International PLC
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
United States v. Smith
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
Colon v. Twitter, Inc.
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
Boigris v. EWC P&T, LLC
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
Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc.
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
MidlevelU, Inc. v. ACI Information Group
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