Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeal reversing the judgment of the trial court granting a petition for writ of mandate directing the City of Hayward to refund to a records requester the charges for approximately forty hours its staff spent editing out exempt material from digital police body camera footage, holding that the trial court was correct to disallow the City's charge for time its staff spent responding to the requests. The City claimed that its costs for time its employees spent responding to Plaintiff's requests were chargeable as costs of data extraction under Cal. Gov't Code 6253.9, subdivision (b)(2). The Supreme Court held that the City must bear its own redaction costs because the term "data extraction" does not cover the process of redacting exempt material from otherwise disclosable electronic records. View "National Lawyers Guild v. City of Hayward" on Justia Law

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Local exchange carriers (LECs) can assess interexchange carriers (IXCs) access charges when LECs provide IXCs with services that enable the IXCs to exchange wireless-to-wireline calls that originate and terminate within the same Major Trading Area (MTA). In this multidistrict litigation case, IXCs Sprint and Verizon filed suit against hundreds of LECs in various courts. The Fifth Circuit held that, because the LECs filed access charge tariffs with the FCC and state regulators, the filed-rate doctrine requires Sprint, Verizon, and Level 3 to pay those charges. Therefore, the court affirmed the dismissal of Sprint and Verizon's claims for damages and affirmed summary judgment on the LECs' claims and counterclaims. However, the court vacated in part, holding that Sprint and Verizon could be entitled to declaratory relief as to at least some of the LECs. Accordingly, the court remanded the dismissal of Sprint and Verizon's claim for declaratory relief. View "In re: IntraMTA Switched Access Charges Litigation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot Victoria Ullmann's mandamus complaint seeking to compel Respondent, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, to comply with two public-records requests, granted Ullmann's motion for statutory damages, and denied her request for attorneys fees, holding that Ullmann was entitled to statutory damages because Klein failed timely to produce records responsive to Ullmann's public-records requests. At issue before the Supreme Court in Ullmann's mandamus action was whether Klein failed to respond to her public-records requests. In her merit brief, Ullmann stated that she had "finally gotten lots of the documents" she requested from Klein. The Supreme Court dismissed Ullmann's complaint against Klein as moot, holding that because Ullmann failed to identify what public records responsive to her requests remained undisclosed or show that the documents provided were unlawfully redacted, Ullmann was not entitled to a writ of mandamus. The Court further granted Ullmann an award of statutory damages in the amount of $1,000, denied her request for attorney fees, and denied her motions for in camera review of redacted documents Klein provided her and for oral argument. View "State ex rel. Ullmann v. Klein" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint alleging three defamation counts against defendants. The defamatory statements at issue stemmed from the parties' failed business relationship in the sport of darts. The court held that the pleaded actual damages are sufficient to satisfy the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. In this case, the complaint does not limit its request for damages to a precise monetary amount, but pleaded in excess of $60,000. On the merits, the court held, under Missouri law, that defendants' three statements are capable of defamatory meaning and the opinion privilege does not render these statements nonactionable at this stage. In light of the totality of the circumstances and context in which these statements were made, the court held that a reasonable factfinder could conclude that these statements at a minimum imply an assertion of objective fact. Therefore, the district court erred in concluding that the complaint failed to state a claim for defamation and in dismissing the action. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Turntine v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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After approximately ten years of litigation, the Georgia Supreme Court granted a second petition for certiorari in a dispute over the refund of millions of dollars in Georgia sales and use taxes that allegedly violated a federal statute. In 2010, New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC and three other AT&T Mobility subsidiaries (collectively, “AT&T”) filed refund claims with the Georgia Department of Revenue seeking the return of the sales and use taxes that AT&T had collected from its customers and turned over to the Department. In 2015, the Department denied the claims, and AT&T filed a complaint in DeKalb County Superior Court to compel the refunds. In 2016, the trial court dismissed the complaint on grounds: (1) a Georgia regulation required “dealers” like AT&T to return the sums collected from their customers before applying to the Department for a refund of the illegal taxes; (2) AT&T lacked standing to seek refunds of taxes for periods prior to May 5, 2009, the effective date of the General Assembly’s amendment to the refund statutes to allow dealers to seek refunds on behalf of their customers; and (3) AT&T’s claims amounted to a class action barred by the refund statutes. In its first certiorari review, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed that ruling, holding that the regulation, as properly construed, did not require dealers to return the sums collected before applying for a refund. On remand, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling that AT&T lacked standing to seek refunds for periods prior to the effective date of the 2009 amendments to the refund statutes allowing dealers to seek refunds on behalf of their customers. The issue presented in the second petition for certiorari review was whether plaintiffs lacked standing to file the refund claims. The Supreme Court determined AT&T was statutorily granted representational standing to recover wrongfully paid sums on behalf of and for the benefit of its customers. To the extent, therefore, that the Court of Appeals held that AT&T lacked standing to file a claim on behalf of its customers for any taxes for periods before May 5, 2009, the Court of Appeals’ judgment was erroneous and had to be reversed. View "New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The district courts dismissed two cases, concluding that faxes soliciting participation by the recipients in market research surveys in exchange for monetary payments are not advertisements within the meaning of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227 (b)(1)(C) (TCPA), which prohibits the transmission of unsolicited fax advertisements. In a consolidated appeal, the Third Circuit reversed.. Solicitations to buy products, goods, or services can be advertisements under the TCPA. The solicitations for participation in the surveys in exchange for $200.00 by one sender and $150.00 by the other sender were for services within the TCPA. An offer of payment in exchange for participation in a market survey is a commercial transaction, so a fax highlighting the availability of that transaction is an advertisement under the TCPA. View "Fischbein v. Olson Research Group Inc" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the Seventh Circuit held that Chicago is entitled to limit sales on the streets adjacent to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, but remanded a magazine seller’s contention that an ordinance requiring all peddlers to be licensed was invalid because of an exception for newspapers. Before the judge acted on remand, Chicago amended its ordinance to provide: It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business of a peddler without first having obtained a street peddler license under this chapter. Provided, however, a street peddler license is not required for selling, … only newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, or other similar written materials on the public way. There is no distinction between newspapers and magazines. Left Field Media withdrew its request for an injunction but sought damages to compensate for injury before the amendment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for want of a justiciable controversy. Left Field did not show any injury. It did not assert other costs, such as overtime wages or legal fees incurred to attempt to get a license. Because Left Field has not offered details, it would not be possible to conclude that it suffered even a dollar in marginal costs. View "Left Field Media LLC v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that DISH violated the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) in its attempts to collect debt it knew had been discharged in bankruptcy and in its direct contacts with plaintiff knowing she was represented by counsel. Plaintiff also alleged that DISH violated the Telephone Consumer Practices Act (TCPA) by contacting plaintiff about the debt with an automated dialing system after she revoked her consent to receive such calls. The Eleventh Circuit first determined that DISH's claim for the Pause debt was discharged. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the FCCPA claims. In this case, DISH attempted to collect debt it had no legal right to collect because the debt had been discharged in bankruptcy, and DISH directly contacted plaintiff after having received notice that she was represented by counsel. Accordingly, the court remanded on the FCCPA claims for the district court to consider whether DISH actually knew that the Pause charges were invalid and that plaintiff was represented by counsel with regard to the debt it was attempting to collect, and if so, whether such errors were unintentional and the result of bona fide error. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment as to the TCPA claim, holding that the TCPA does not allow unilateral revocation of consent given in a bargained-for contract. The court reasoned that, by permitting plaintiff to unilaterally revoke a mutually-agreed-upon term in a contract would run counter to black-letter contract law in effect at the time Congress enacted the TCPA. View "Medley v. Dish Network, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2019, Anheuser-Busch began to advertise that its beer, Bud Light, is made using rice, while Miller Lite and Coors Light use corn syrup as a source of sugar that yeast ferments into alcohol. Molson Coors responded by advertising that its beers taste be]er because of the difference between rice and corn syrup. In a lawsuit, Molson contended that Anheuser-Busch violated section 43 of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125, by implying that a product made from corn syrup also contains corn syrup. After a remand, the district court issued an injunction. The Seventh Circuit affirmed to the extent that the order denied Molson’s request for an injunction and reversed to the extent that the Bud Light advertising or packaging was enjoined. To the extent that the injunction prevents Anheuser-Busch from stating that Miller Lite or Coors Light “contain” corn syrup, it was vacated; Anheuser-Busch has never stated this nor said that it wants to do so but only made the true statement that “their beer is made using corn syrup and ours isn’t.” View "Molson Coors Beverage Co. v. Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) includes the text of every Georgia statute currently in force. Non-binding annotations appear beneath each statutory provision, typically including summaries of judicial opinions construing each provision, summaries of pertinent attorney general opinions, and a list of related law review articles and other reference materials. The OCGA is assembled by the Code Revision Commission, a state entity composed mostly of legislators, funded through legislative branch appropriations, and staffed by the Office of Legislative Counsel. The current OCGA annotations were produced by a private publisher, pursuant to a work-for-hire agreement, which states that any copyright in the OCGA vests in the state, acting through the Commission. A nonprofit, dedicated to facilitating public access to government records and legal materials, posted the OCGA online and distributed copies. The Commission sued for infringement under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 102(a). The Eleventh Circuit and the Supreme Court held that OCGA annotations are ineligible for copyright protection. Under the government edicts doctrine, officials empowered to speak with the force of law cannot be the authors of the works they create in the course of their official duties. The Court noted long-standing precedent that an official reporter cannot hold a copyright interest in opinions created by judges; no one can own the law. The doctrine applies to whatever work legislators perform in their capacity as legislators, including explanatory and procedural materials they create in the discharge of their legislative duties. The sole “author” of the annotations is the Commission, which functions as an arm of the Georgia Legislature and creates the annotations in the discharge of its legislative duties. The Court focused on authorship, stating that Georgia’s characterization of the OCGA annotations as non-binding and non-authoritative undersells the practical significance of the annotations to litigants and citizens. View "Georgia v. Public Resource.Org, Inc." on Justia Law