Justia Communications Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Sams v. Yahoo! Inc.
Plaintiff appealed the district court's order dismissing her putative class claims against Yahoo!, alleging that Yahoo! violated the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. 2701-2712, when it disclosed some of her noncontent subscriber information to the government pursuant to allegedly invalid subpoenas. Plaintiff further argued that even if the subpoenas were valid, Yahoo! failed to comply with their terms when it produced the requested documents prior to the deadline set in the subpoenas. The court held that the good faith defense under 18 U.S.C. 2707(e) was met when the defendant complies with a subpoena that appeared valid on its face, in the absence of any indication of irregularity sufficient to put the defendant on notice that the subpoena may be invalid or contrary to applicable law. In this case, the court concluded that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's SCA claims because Yahoo! was statutorily immune from suit because it produced the requested documents in good faith reliance on grand jury subpoenas. Yahoo!'s early compliance with the subpoenas did not vitiate Yahoo's immunity. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Sams v. Yahoo! Inc." on Justia Law
Luvdarts LLC, et al v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, et al
Luvdarts sued mobile wireless carriers, who own multimedia messaging networks (MMS networks), for copyright infringement. At issue was whether the carriers could be held liable for copyright infringement that allegedly occurred on their networks. Because Luvdarts failed to allege adequately that the carriers had the necessary right and ability to supervise the infringing conduct, the district court properly determined that they could not prevail on their claim of vicarious copyright infringement. Because Luvdarts failed to allege adequately that the carriers had the necessary specific knowledge of infringement, it could not prevail on its claim of contributory copyright infringement. Accordingly, Luvdarts failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted and the district court properly dismissed its complaint with prejudice. View "Luvdarts LLC, et al v. AT&T Mobility, LLC, et al" on Justia Law
Autotel v. Nevada Bell Telephone Co.
Plaintiff, a Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) provider, wished to provide wireless service in and around Pahrump, Nevada. Plaintiff sought digital interconnection with the facilities and equipment of defendant, the incumbent local exchange carrier (LEC) in the area. After the parties' efforts to negotiate an interconnection agreement failed, plaintiff brought suit alleging that defendant violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56, by refusing to negotiate in good faith and by failing to provide digital interconnection with symmetrical pricing on an interim basis during negotiations, as required by the FCC regulations. The court held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiff's good faith claim because it did not exhaust its administrative remedies under the court's prudential exhaustion requirement. The court also held that the interim arrangement and symmetrical pricing requirements applied only when the competing carrier did not have an existing interconnection arrangement with the incumbent LEC that provided for the transport and termination of telecommunications traffic. Because plaintiff had such an arrangement with defendant at all relevant times, defendant had no obligation to provide plaintiff an interim arrangement with symmetrical rates. The court remanded, however, to permit the district court to consider what, if any, relief was available to plaintiff under 47 C.F.R. 51.717. View "Autotel v. Nevada Bell Telephone Co." on Justia Law
Marsh v. County of San Diego, et al.
Plaintiff sued defendants under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the copying and dissemination of her son's autopsy photographs violated her Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights. The court held that plaintiff had a constitutionally protected right to privacy over her child's death images. But, because defendant Coulter, the San Diego Deputy District Attorney, wasn't acting under color of state law when he sent the autopsy photograph to the press, that claim must be dismissed. And, because there was no "clearly established" law to inform Coulter that any of his earlier conduct was unlawful, Coulter was entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Marsh v. County of San Diego, et al." on Justia Law
Minority Television Project, Inc. v. FCC, et al.
This case arose when the FCC found that Minority had "willfully and repeatedly" violated 47 U.S.C. 399b when it broadcasted paid promotional messages on its radio station from for-profit corporations. The statute was a a content-based ban on speech: public broadcasters could transmit many types of speech, but, unlike most other stations, they could not transmit three classes of advertising messages. Minority contended that section 399b was an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech because it banned all paid public issue and political speech while permitting promotional messages by non-profits. The court applied intermediate scrutiny and upheld the ban on the transmission of advertisements for goods and services by for-profit entities, but the court struck down as unconstitutional the ban on public issue and political advertisements. View "Minority Television Project, Inc. v. FCC, et al." on Justia Law
Coneff, et al. v. AT&T Corp, et al.
Plaintiffs, current and former customers of AT&T, filed a class action against AT&T, alleging unjust enrichment and and breach of contract. AT&T responded by seeking to enforce an arbitration agreement contained in its contracts with plaintiffs. The district court refused to enforce the arbitration agreement on state-law unconscionability grounds, relying primarily on the agreement's class-action waiver provision. The court reversed the district court's substantive unconscionability ruling where the FAA preempted the Washington state law invalidating the class-action waiver. The court remanded for further proceedings related to plaintiffs' procedural unconscionability claims for the district court to apply Washington choice-of-law rules. View "Coneff, et al. v. AT&T Corp, et al." on Justia Law
Western Radio Services Co. v. Qwest Corp., et al.
This case arose out of a dispute between two telecommunications carriers over their interconnection agreement (ICA) under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 151 et seq. Plaintiff Western is a commercial mobile radio service (CMRS) provider and Defendant Qwest is a local exchange carrier (LEC). The court concluded that Western has failed to exhaust the prudential requirement that it first present its claim, that Qwest violated its statutory duty to negotiate the ICA in good faith, to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) before bringing that claim in federal court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decision dismissing that claim. The court also concluded that the ICA's provision (1) requiring Western to interconnect with Qwest's network via at least one point per Local Access and Transport Area (LATA); and (2) providing Western with the signaling systems of its choice only where such systems were available, did not violate the Act. However, the court concluded that the ICA, as approved, did violate the Act insofar as it applied to access charges, rather than reciprocal compensation, to calls exchanged between a CMRS provider and a LEC, originating and terminating in the same LATA, when those calls were carried by an interexchange carrier (IXC). Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision upholding the PUC's approval of the ICA to that extent, and remanded to the PUC for further proceedings. View "Western Radio Services Co. v. Qwest Corp., et al." on Justia Law
Jewel, et al. v. NSA, et al.
This case arose from claims that the federal government, with the assistance of major telecommunications companies, engaged in widespread warrantless eavesdropping in the United States following the September 11, 2001 attacks. At issue was whether plaintiffs have standing to bring their statutory and constitutional claims against the government for what they described as a communications dragnet of ordinary American citizens. The court concluded that plaintiffs' claims were not abstract, generalized grievances and instead met the constitutional standing requirement of concrete injury; nor do prudential considerations bar the action; the claims did not raise a political question nor are they inappropriate for judicial resolution; and the court did not impose a heightened standing requirement simply because the case involved government officials in the national security context. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal on standing grounds and remanded for further proceedings. View "Jewel, et al. v. NSA, et al." on Justia Law
McMurray, et al. v. Verizon Communications Inc., et al.
Plaintiffs appealed from the district court's dismissal of their complaint against government officials and a group of telecommunications companies. Plaintiffs challenged section 802 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), 50 U.S.C. 1885a, as an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment. Section 802 allowed the U.S. Attorney General to certify that a telecommunications company provided assistance at the behest of the government in connection with investigation of terrorism, thereby triggering immunity on the theory that application of section 802 required dismissal of plaintiffs' case and negated the cause of action under various federal statutes. The court held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiffs' complaint for lack of jurisdiction where plaintiffs demanded no monetary damages. Consequently, the court need not reach the merits of the Takings Clause claim. View "McMurray, et al. v. Verizon Communications Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Hepting, et al. v. AT&T Corp., et al.
These consolidated appeals arose from claims that major telecommunications carriers assisted the government with intelligence gathering following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Plaintiffs challenged the legality of the telecommunications companies' participation in the surveillance program. At issue was the constitutionality of section 802 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), 50 U.S.C. 1885a, which allowed for immunity for the telecommunications companies. The court concluded that the statute was constitutional and did not violate Articles I and III of the Constitution or the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly, the district court's grant of the government's motion to dismiss was affirmed as to the challenged section 802 claims. View "Hepting, et al. v. AT&T Corp., et al." on Justia Law