Justia Communications Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
by
The Second Circuit vacated its previous opinion and filed an amended opinion in its place.Plaintiff and Church United filed suit against Vimeo, alleging that the company discriminated against them by deleting Church United’s account from its online video hosting platform. Plaintiffs claimed that Vimeo discriminated against them based on sexual orientation and religion under federal and state law. The district court concluded that Vimeo deleted Church United's account because of its violation of one of Vimeo's published content policies barring the promotion of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on its platform.The court agreed with the district court that Section 230(c)(2) of the Communications Decency Act protects Vimeo from this suit and that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for relief. In this case, plaintiffs argue that Vimeo demonstrated bad faith by discriminating against them based on their religion and sexual orientation, which they term "former" homosexuality; deleting Church United's entire account, as opposed to only the videos at issue; and permitting other videos with titles referring to homosexuality to remain on the website. However, the court concluded that plaintiffs' conclusory allegations are insufficient to raise a plausible inference of bad faith sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. The court explained that Vimeo removed plaintiffs' account for expressing pro-SOCE views which it in good faith considers objectionable, and plaintiffs, while implicitly acknowledging that their content violated Vimeo's Terms of Service, nevertheless ignored Vimeo's notice of violation, resulting in Vimeo deleting their account.Plaintiffs have also failed to state a claim under either the New York Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act or the California Unruh Act. Because plaintiffs make no allegation suggesting that Vimeo removed their content for any reason other than this violation of the Terms of Service, plaintiffs' allegations lack the substance required to support an inference of discriminatory intent. View "Domen v. Vimeo, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Lands' End in a putative class action brought by Gorss Motels under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), seeking compensation for faxes it received advertising the products of Lands' End.As a preliminary matter, although the parties do not raise the issue on appeal, the court concluded that Gorss has standing to proceed under the TCPA. The court concluded that Gorss gave prior express permission to receive the faxes at issue through its franchise agreements with Wyndham, and rejected plaintiff's contention that any permission to send fax advertisements was given to Wyndham and not to Lands' End. Therefore, the court concluded that Gorss agreed to the process that occurred here, in which Wyndham sent Gorss fax advertisements on behalf of a Wyndham approved supplier, Lands' End, advertising products that could be used in franchised motels. View "Gorss Motels, Inc. v. Lands' End, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's complaint against the New York Times. Plaintiff alleged defamation based on the Times's print and online articles about gender bias, favoritism, and groping at the Justice Department. The article details a Times investigation into a series of complaints, using records derived from an EEOC complaint and a sex discrimination and retaliation suit. One of the declarations described an incident between plaintiff and an intern. Plaintiff alleged that the language from this declaration was false and defamatory per se and that the fair report privilege did not apply.The court concluded that the district court performed the proper choice-of-law analysis, applying New York law to the conflict; correctly reasoned that New York was the state with the most significant interests in the litigation and applied New York's fair report privilege; and then properly dismissed plaintiff's complaint as barred by the fair report privilege because the alleged defamatory statement was attributed to an official proceeding. View "Kinsey v. New York Times Co." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff and Church United filed suit against Vimeo, alleging that the company discriminated against them by deleting Church United’s account from its online video hosting platform. Plaintiffs claimed that Vimeo discriminated against them based on sexual orientation and religion under federal and state law. The district court concluded that Vimeo deleted Church United's account because of its violation of one of Vimeo's content policies barring the promotion of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) on its platform.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' claims, agreeing with the district court that Section 230(c)(2) of the Communications Decency Act provides Vimeo with immunity from suit. The court concluded that, under Section 230(c)(2), Vimeo is free to restrict access to material that, in good faith, it finds objectionable. In this case, plaintiffs' conclusory allegations of bad faith do not survive the pleadings stage, especially when examined in the context of Section 230(c)(2). The court explained that Section 230(c)(2) does not require interactive service providers to use a particular method of content restriction, nor does it mandate perfect enforcement of a platform's content policies. Indeed, the fundamental purpose of Section 230(c)(2) is to provide platforms like Vimeo with the discretion to identify and remove what they consider objectionable content from their platforms without incurring liability for each decision. View "Domen v. Vimeo, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that LBD used Automatic Telephone Dialing Systems (ATDSs) in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). In this case, plaintiff received hundreds of unsolicited text messages from LBD over the course of more than a year and a half.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to LBD, holding that LBD's systems qualified as ATDSs. The court held that LBD's systems met both statutory requirements by having both the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator, and the capacity to dial such numbers. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Duran v. La Boom Disco, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action against AEO, alleging that unsolicited spam text messages they received were in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. After the parties agreed to settle, third party defendant Experian objected to certification, arguing that plaintiffs lacked standing under Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016). Class member Bowes objected to the settlement as unfair. The district court approved both the settlement and certified the settlement class.The Second Circuit held that plaintiffs' receipt of the unsolicited text messages, without any other injury, was sufficient to demonstrate injury-in-fact. The court held that plaintiffs were not required to demonstrate any additional harm because the nuisance and privacy invasion attendant on spam texts were the very harms with which Congress was concerned when enacting the Act. Furthermore, history confirms that causes of action to remedy such injuries were traditionally regarded as providing bases for lawsuits in English or American courts. Therefore, the court dismissed Experian's appeal. The court affirmed with respect to Bowes' appeal, because the district court acted within its discretion in approving the class settlement. View "Melito v. Experian Marketing Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Connecticut General Statute 52‐59b, which provides for long‐arm jurisdiction over certain out‐of‐state defendants except in defamation actions, does not violate plaintiff's First or Fourteenth Amendment rights. This case arose out of a news article published by Bloomberg News, reporting a lawsuit filed by plaintiff against his former employer, Palladyne International Asset Management, and others. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's defamation action as to the out-of-state defendants. In regard to allegedly defamatory statements made by the remaining defendants, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's defamation claim based on the "as much as $500 million" statement, and reversed the district court's dismissal of the defamation claim based on the "repeatedly tried to extort" statement, pursuant to New York Civil Rights Law 74. View "Friedman v. Bloomberg L.P." on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings in an action alleging that defendant violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227. The court held that a flu shot reminder text message sent by a hospital did not violate the TCPA because the text fell within the scope of plaintiff's prior express consent. In this case, plaintiff provided defendant with his cell phone number when he first visited the hospital; signed a consent form acknowledging receipt of various privacy notices; in signing the form, agreed that the hospital could share his information for "treatment" purposes; and the privacy notices stated that defendant could use plaintiff's information to recommend possible treatment alternatives or health-related benefits and services. View "Latner v. Mt. Sinai Health System, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After receiving the answer to two certified questions from the Nevada Supreme Court, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's defamation suit. The Nevada Supreme Court held that a hyperlink to source material about a judicial proceeding may suffice as a report within the common law fair report privilege, and that the online petition, as it existed when plaintiff's complaint was filed, fell within the purview of Nevada's fair report privilege. The state court also held that, pursuant to Delucchi v. Songer, 396 P.3d 826 (Nev. 2017), Nevada's anti-SLAPP statute covers communication that is aimed at procuring any governmental or electoral action, result or outcome which is truthful or is made without knowledge of its falsehood, even if that communication was not addressed to a government agency. In this case, plaintiff failed to allege knowledge of falsity, much less facts to support such a conclusion. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's request for additional discovery and the district court's application of the anti‐SLAPP statute to this case. View "Adelson v. Harris" on Justia Law

by
George Elias, IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler appealed the district court's dismissal of their defamation claims against Rolling Stone and others, alleging claims arising from a now-retracted Rolling Stone magazine article titled, "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA" as well as a subsequent online podcast. The Second Circuit held that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' defamation claim arising from the podcast; the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' claims relating to Hadford individually; with regard to Elias and Fowler, the complaint plausibly alleged that the statements in the article were "of and concerning" them individually; and the complaint plausibly alleged that all plaintiffs were defamed as members of the Phi Kappa Psi under a theory of small group defamation. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Elias v. Rolling Stone LLC" on Justia Law