Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Internet Law
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In 2017, Freydin, a Chicago lawyer, posed a question on Facebook: “Did Trump put Ukraine on the travel ban list?! We just cannot find a cleaning lady!” After receiving online criticism for the comment, Freydin doubled down. People angered by Freydin’s comments went to his law firm’s Facebook, Yelp, and Google pages and left reviews that expressed their negative views of Freydin. Various defendants made comments including: An “embarrassment and a disgrace to the US judicial system,” “unethical and derogatory,” “hypocrite,” “chauvinist,” “racist,” “no right to practice law,” “not professional,” “discriminates [against] other nationalities,” do not “waste your money.,” “Freydin is biased and unprofessional attorney,” “terrible experience,” “awful customer service,” “disrespect[],” and “unprofessional[ism].” None of the defendants had previously used Freydin’s legal services.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Freydin’s suit, which alleged libel per se, “false light,” tortious interference with contractual relationships, tortious interference with prospective business relationships, and civil conspiracy. None of the reviews contained statements that are actionable as libel per se under Illinois law; each was an expression of opinion that could not support a libel claim. Freyding did not link the civil conspiracy claims to an independently viable tort claim. View "Law Offices of David Freyd v. Chamara" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit dismissed, based on lack of appellate jurisdiction, AdTrader's appeal from the district court's attorneys' fee award in a class action brought by AdTrader on behalf of itself and advertisers who used Google advertising services but did not receive refunds for invalid traffic.The panel concluded that this is neither a traditional common fund case nor one that meets the requirements of the collateral order doctrine. In this case, the litigants and the district court may have agreed that attorneys' fees should be determined in light of common fund principles, but they also agreed that "any award of attorneys' fees here would not come from a sum that Google has been ordered to pay the class." The panel explained that this alone shows that this case neither fits the situation under which the "common fund" doctrine developed nor meets the requirement of unreviewability that is essential to the limited collateral order exception to finality. The panel also considered plaintiffs' other arguments for an immediate appeal and found them to be without merit. View "AdTrader, Inc. v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

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Spectrum filed suit against Lifetime and Jay Tuttle for trademark violations under the Lanham Act over a domain name. After Spectrum was awarded statutory damages, the district court declined to award attorneys' fees to Spectrum.The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's admission of certain deposition testimony at trial and agreed with the Fourth Circuit that the plain text of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a)(4)(B) is clear that "the place of trial" is the courthouse where trial takes place. In this case, the Lifetime Defendants were not prejudiced by the transfer of trial venue from San Antonio to Waco, and the court rejected the Lifetime Defendants' contention that the witness was not an unavailable trial witness. The court affirmed the district court's statutory damages award, concluding that the district court did not abuse its broad discretion, under 15 U.S.C. 1117(d), in awarding $100,000 for the Infringing Domain. However, the court reversed the district court's finding that Spectrum was not entitled to attorneys' fees in this exceptional case where the record confirms that the Lifetime Defendants engaged in willful, bad-faith infringement of Spectrum's trademarks, justifying an award of maximum statutory damages. The court remanded for a determination of reasonable attorneys' fees. View "Spectrum Association Management of Texas, LLC v. Lifetime HOA Management LLC" 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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Attorney Hassell obtained a judgment holding Bird liable for defamation and requiring her to remove defamatory reviews she posted about Hassell on Yelp.com. The judgment contained an order requiring Yelp to remove Bird’s defamatory reviews from its site. Yelp, who was not a party in the defamation action, moved to vacate the judgment. The court of appeal affirmed denial of that motion, but remanded. The court concluded that Yelp is not “aggrieved” by the defamation judgment against Bird, but is “aggrieved” by the removal order; Yelp’s motion to vacate was not cognizable under Code of Civil Procedure section 6632; Yelp has standing to challenge the validity of the removal order as an “aggrieved party,” having brought a nonstatutory motion to vacate; Yelp’s due process rights were not violated by its lack of prior notice and a hearing on the removal order request; the removal order does not violate Yelp’s First Amendment rights to the extent that it requires Yelp to remove Bird’s defamatory reviews; to the extent it purports to cover statements other than Bird’s defamatory reviews, the removal order is an overbroad unconstitutional prior restraint on speech; and Yelp’s immunity from suit under the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. 230, does not extend to the removal order. View "Hassell v. Bird" on Justia Law

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Lumen’s 073 patent is directed to facilitating multilateral decision-making by matching parties, using preference data from two classes of parties. FTB operates a search website with a comparison feature, “AssistMe,” that provides personalized product and service recommendations by asking the user questions about attributes of the desired product or service. Lumen alleged infringement. FTB repeatedly informed Lumen that FTB’s accused feature did not involve bilateral or multilateral preference matching. Before receiving any discovery, Lumen served preliminary infringement contentions, including a chart identifying the allegedly infringing features of AssistMe. The district court granted FTB judgment on the pleadings, holding that the patent’s claims are directed to an abstract idea and invalid for failure to claim patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. 101. The court found claim construction unnecessary and awarded attorney fees. Finding the case exceptional under 35 U.S.C. 285, the court stated “basic” pre-suit investigation would have shown that AssistMe only used one party's preference data. The court explained factors that supported enhancing the lodestar amount, including “the need to deter the plaintiff’s predatory strategy, the plaintiff’s desire to extract a nuisance settlement, the plaintiff’s threats to make the litigation expensive, and the frivolous nature of the plaintiff’s claims.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the "exceptional" finding, but remanded for proper explanation of the calculation of fees. View "Lumen View Tech., LLC v. Findthebest.Com, Inc" on Justia Law

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AF Holdings, represented by Prenda Law, filed suit in district court against 1,058 unnamed John Does who it alleged had illegally downloaded and shared the pornographic film "Popular Demand" using a file-sharing service known as BitTorrent. Prenda Law's general approach was to identify certain unknown persons whose IP addresses were used to download pornographic films, sue them in gigantic multi-defendant suits that minimized filing fees, discover the identities of the persons to whom these IP addresses were assigned by serving subpoenas on the Internet service providers to which the addresses pertained, and then negotiate settlements with the underlying subscriber. The providers refused to comply with the district court's issuance of subpoenas compelling them to turn over information about the underlying subscribers, arguing that the subpoenas are unduly burdensome because venue is improper, personal jurisdiction over these Doe defendants is lacking, and defendants could not properly be joined together in one action. The court agreed, concluding that AF Holdings clearly abused the discovery process by not seeking information because of its relevance to the issues that might actually be litigated here. AF Holdings could not possibly have had a good faith belief that it could successfully sue the overwhelming majority of the John Doe defendants in this district. Although AF Holdings might possibly seek discovery regarding individual defendants in the judicial districts in which they are likely located, what it certainly may not do is improperly use court processes by attempting to gain information about hundreds of IP addresses located all over the country in a single action, especially when many of those addresses fall outside of the court's jurisdiction. Given AF Holdings' decision to name and seek discovery regarding a vast number of defendants who downloaded the film weeks and even months apart - defendants who could not possibly be joined in this litigation - one can easily infer that its purpose was to attain information that was not, and could not be, relevant to this particular suit. Accordingly, the court vacated the order and remanded for further proceedings, including a determination of sanctions, if any, for AF Holdings' use of a possible forgery in support of its claim.View "AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1058" on Justia Law

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Lightspeed operates online pornography sites and sued a defendant, identified only Internet Protocol address, which was allegedly associated with unlawful viewing of Lightspeed’s content, using a “hacked” password. Lightspeed identified 6,600 others (by IP addresses only) as “co‐conspirators” in a scheme to steal passwords and content. Lightspeed, acting ex parte, served subpoenas on the ISPs (then non‐parties) for the personally identifiable information of each alleged coconspirator, none of whom had been joined as parties. The ISPs moved to quash and for a protective order. The Illinois Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the ISPs. Lightspeed amended its complaint to name as co‐conspirator parties the ISPs and unidentified “corporate representatives,” alleging negligence, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030 and 1030(g), and deceptive practices. Lightspeed issued new subpoenas seeking the personally identifiable information. The ISPs removed the case to federal court. The district judge denied an emergency motion to obtain the identification information. After several “changes” with respect to Lightspeed’s lawyers, the court stated that they “demonstrated willingness to deceive … about their operations, relationships, and financial interests have varied from feigned ignorance to misstatements to outright lies … calculated so that the Court would grant early‐discovery requests, thereby allowing [them] to identify defendants and exact settlement proceeds.” After granting Lightspeed’s motion for voluntary dismissal, the court granted attorney’s fees under 28 U.S.C. 1927, stating that the litigation “smacked of bullying pretense.” Failing to pay, the lawyers were found to be in civil contempt and ordered to pay 10% of the original sanctions award to cover costs for the contempt litigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed.View "Duffy v. Smith" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals arose from the district court's appointment of a receiver of Jeffrey Baron's personal property and entities he owned or controlled. Barron and Munish Krishan formed a joint venture involving the ownership and sale of internet domain names. Disputes arose between the venturers, resulting in at least seven lawsuits. The district court subsequently sought to stop Baron's practice of regularly firing one lawyer and hiring a new one. Baron appealed the receivership order and almost every order entered by the district court thereafter. The court reversed and remanded, holding that the appointment of the receiver was an abuse of discretion. Numerous motions and a writ of mandamus to overturn the bankruptcy court's striking of notices of appeal to the district court were also before the court. Most were denied as moot and the court addressed the remaining motions that were relevant. View "Netsphere Inc., et al v. Baron" on Justia Law