Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Internet Law
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The DC Circuit declined to vacate the FCC's 2018 Order in its entirety, which classified broadband internet access services as an information service under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Specifically, the 2018 Order classified broadband internet as an "information service," and mobile broadband as a "private mobile service." In the Order, the Commission adopted transparency rules intended to ensure that consumers have adequate data about Internet Service Providers' network practices, and the Commission applied a cost-benefit analysis, concluding that the benefits of a market-based, "light-touch" regime for Internet governance outweighed those of common carrier regulation under Title II. The court held, under the guidance of National Cable & Telecomms. Ass'n v. Brand X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967, 980–981 (2005), that the Commission permissibly classified broadband Internet access as an "information service" by virtue of the functionalities afforded by DNS and caching. The court also held that, even though petitioners' reading of a functional equivalence in 47 U.S.C. 332(d)(3) was not foreclosed by the statute, the agency's interpretation of that term, and its application to mobile broadband, were reasonable and merit Chevron deference. Furthermore, the court held that the Commission's rationales in favor of its reading of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act was reasonable, and agreed that the transparency rule was authorized by 47 U.S.C. 257. Therefore, the court upheld the 2018 Order with two exceptions. The court held that the Commission has not shown legal authority to issue its Preemption Directive, which would have barred states from imposing any rule or requirement that the Commission "repealed or decided to refrain from imposing" in the Order or that is "more stringent" than the Order. Accordingly, the court vacated that portion of the Order. The court also remanded the Order to the agency on three discrete issues regarding public safety, pole attachments, and the Lifeline Program. View "Mozilla Corp. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals stemmed from the cyberattack of multiple OPM databases that resulted in the data breach of sensitive personal information from more than 21 million people. Plaintiffs alleged that OPM's cybersecurity practices were inadequate, enabling the hackers to gain access to the agency's database of employee information, in turn exposing plaintiffs to heightened risks of identity theft and other injuries. The district court dismissed the complaints based on lack of Article III standing and failure to state a claim. The DC Circuit held that both sets of plaintiffs have alleged facts sufficient to satisfy Article III standing requirements; the Arnold Plaintiffs have stated a claim for damages under the Privacy Act, and have unlocked OPM's waiver of sovereign immunity, by alleging OPM's knowing refusal to establish appropriate information security safeguards; KeyPoint was not entitled to derivative sovereign immunity because it has not shown that its alleged security faults were directed by the government, and it is alleged to have violated the Privacy Act standards incorporated into its contract with OPM; and, assuming a constitutional right to informational privacy, NTEU Plaintiffs have not alleged any violation of such a right. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In re: U.S. Office of Personnel Management Data Security Breach Litigation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, 14 locksmith companies, filed suit alleging that Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have conspired to "flood the market" of online search results with information about so-called "scam" locksmiths, in order to extract additional advertising revenue. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the amended complaint as barred by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. The parties agreed as to the first and third prongs of the section 230 test for determining whether the Act mandates dismissal, holding that defendants were a provider or user of an interactive computer service and that the complaint sought to hold defendants liable as the publisher or speaker of that information. As to the contested second prong of the section 230 test, the court held that the information for which plaintiff seeks to hold defendants liable was information provided by another information content provider and thus dismissal was warranted under the Act. In this case, defendants' translation of information that comes from the scam locksmiths' webpages fell within the scope of section 230 immunity. View "Marshall's Locksmith Service v. Google, LLC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Google's motion to dismiss in an action brought by plaintiff and her company against Google for failing to remove an offensive blog post. Plaintiff alleged three state law causes of action: defamation; tortious interference with a business relationship; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court concluded that the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230, immunized Google from liability for the publication of third-party content. The court applied the three part test in Klayman v. Zuckerberg, 753 F.3d 1354, 1357 (D.C. Cir. 2014), to determine that Google had established immunity. In this case, Google qualified as an interactive computer service provider; plaintiff alleged that a third party created the offensive content on the blog; and plaintiff sought to establish that Google was liable as a publisher of the content. View "Bennett v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Google's motion to dismiss in an action brought by plaintiff and her company against Google for failing to remove an offensive blog post. Plaintiff alleged three state law causes of action: defamation; tortious interference with a business relationship; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court concluded that the Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230, immunized Google from liability for the publication of third-party content. The court applied the three part test in Klayman v. Zuckerberg, 753 F.3d 1354, 1357 (D.C. Cir. 2014), to determine that Google had established immunity. In this case, Google qualified as an interactive computer service provider; plaintiff alleged that a third party created the offensive content on the blog; and plaintiff sought to establish that Google was liable as a publisher of the content. View "Bennett v. Google LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are victims of terrorist attacks and their family members who hold substantial unsatisfied money judgments against defendants Iran, North Korea, and Syria. The money judgments arise out of claims brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605. In order to satisfy the judgments, plaintiffs seek to attach Internet data managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and, accordingly, served writs of attachment on ICANN. The district court quashed the writs because it found that the data was unattachable under D.C. law. The court rejected ICANN’s challenge to the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction, and assumed without deciding that local law applies to the determination of the “attachability” of the defendant sovereigns’ country-code top level domain names (ccTLDs), and without so holding that local law does not operate to bar attachment of the defendant sovereigns’ ccTLDs. The court concluded that those plaintiffs seeking to attach the underlying judgments in Haim I, Weinstein and Stern have forfeited their claims in toto. Those plaintiffs seeking to attach the underlying judgments in Haim II, Rubin, Wyatt and Calderon-Cardona have forfeited all but their claim grounded in the terrorist activity exception to attachment immunity. Finally, because of the enormous third-party interests at stake - and because there is no way to execute on plaintiffs’ judgments without impairing those interests - the court cannot permit attachment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Weinstein v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenge the Commission's 2015 Open Internet Order, which reclassified broadband service as a telecommunications service, subject to common carrier regulation under Title II of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 201. The Commission determined that broadband service satisfies the statutory definition of a telecommunications service: “the offering of telecommunications for a fee directly to the public.” In accordance with Brand X, the Commission's conclusions about consumer perception find extensive support in the record and together justify the Commission’s decision to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service. See National Cable & Telecommunications Ass’n v. Brand X Internet Services. The court rejected petitioners' numerous challenges to the Commission's decision to reclassify broadband, finding that none have merit. The court concluded that the Commission adequately explained why it reclassified broadband from an information service to a telecommunications service and its decision was not arbitrary and capricious. US Telecom never questions the Commission’s application of the statute’s test for common carriage, and US Telecom cites no case, nor is the court aware of one, holding that when the Commission invokes the statutory test for common carriage, it must also apply the NARUC test. See National Ass’n of Regulatory Utility Commissioners v. FCC. Where the Commission concluded that it could regulate interconnection arrangements under Title II as a component of broadband service, the court rejected US Telecom's two challenges to the Commission's decision. The court rejected mobile petitioners’ arguments and find that the Commission’s reclassification of mobile broadband as a commercial mobile service is reasonable and supported by the record. In the Order, the Commission decided to forbear from numerous provisions of the Communications Act. The court rejected Full Service Network's procedural and substantive challenges to the Commission’s forbearance decision. The Commission promulgated five rules in the Order: rules banning (i) blocking, (ii) throttling, and (iii) paid prioritization; (iv) a General Conduct Rule; and (v) an enhanced transparency rule. The court rejected Alamo's challenge to the anti-paid-prioritization rule as beyond the Commission’s authority and rejected US Telecom's challenge to the General Conduct Rule as unconstitutionally vague. Having upheld the FCC’s reclassification of broadband service as common carriage, the court concluded that the First Amendment poses no bar to the rules and the court rejected Alamo and Berninger's challenges. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "United States Telecom Assoc. v. FCC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Facebook and its founder, alleging that their delay in removing a page entitled "Third Palestinian Intifada," and related pages, which called for Muslims to rise up and kill the Jewish people, constituted intentional assault and negligence. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the Communications Decency Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 230, shielded Facebook and its founder from suit where Facebook qualified as an interactive computer service; the complaint acknowledges that the objected-to information was provided by third party users, not Facebook itself; and the complaint seeks to hold Facebook liable as the "publisher or speaker" of that information.View "Klayman v. Zuckerberg, et al." 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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Verizon challenged the FCC's Open Internet Order, which imposed disclosure, anti-blocking, and anti-discrimination requirements on broadband providers. The court concluded that the Commission has established that section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 1302(a), (b), vests it with affirmative authority to enact measures encouraging the deployment of broadband infrastructure; the Commission reasonably interpreted section 706 to empower it to promulgate rules governing broadband providers' treatment of Internet traffic, and its justification for the specific rules at issue here - that they will preserve and facilitate the "virtuous circle" of innovation that has driven the explosive growth of the Internet - was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence; given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. 201 et seq., expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such; and because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules did not impose per se common carrier obligations, the court vacated those portions of the Open Internet Order. View "Verizon v. FCC, et al." on Justia Law