Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Internet Law
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Coinbase is an online digital currency platform that allows customers to send, receive, and store certain digital currencies. Archer opened a Coinbase account to purchase, trade, and store cryptocurrency. On October 23, 2017, a third party launched a new cryptocurrency, “Bitcoin Gold,” Coinbase monitored and evaluated Bitcoin Gold’s network and informed its customers via its website: “ ‘At this time, Coinbase cannot support Bitcoin Gold because its developers have not made the code available to the public to review. This is a major security risk.’ ” In 2018, the Bitcoin Gold network was attacked by hackers who stole millions of dollars of funds from trading platforms and individuals on its network.Archer sued Coinbase, based on Coinbase’s failure and refusal to allow him to receive his Bitcoin Gold currency and Coinbase’s retention of control over his Bitcoin Gold. The trial court rejected his claims of negligence, conversion, and breach of contract on summary judgment. The court of appeal affirmed. Archer failed to establish the existence of an agreement by Coinbase to provide the Bitcoin Gold to him and failed to demonstrate Coinbase acted in any way to deprive him of his Bitcoin Gold currency. View "Archer v. Coinbase, Inc." on Justia Law

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The defendants were indicted on murder, weapons, and gang-related charges stemming from a drive-by shooting. Each defendant served a subpoena duces tecum on one or more social media providers (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, collectively “Providers”), seeking public and private communications from the murder victim’s and a prosecution witness’s accounts. Providers repeatedly moved to quash the subpoenas on the ground that the federal Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. 2701) barred them from disclosing the communications without user consent. The trial court concluded that the Act must yield to an accused’s due process and confrontation rights, denied the motions to quash, and ordered Providers to produce the victim’s and witness’s private communications for in camera review. The court of appeal granted mandamus relief, concluding the trial court abused its discretion by not adequately exploring other factors, particularly options for obtaining materials from other sources, before issuing its order. The trial court focused on defendants’ justification for seeking the private communications and the record does not support the requisite finding of good cause for the production of the private communications for in camera review. View "Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court of the City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who is blind and uses a screen reader, filed suit alleging that defendant violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act by violating the federal American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Plaintiff's claims stemmed from her being unable to access defendant's restaurant website with her screen reader.The Court of Appeal held that Title III of the ADA applies to defendant's website; at a minimum, Title III covers a website with a nexus to a physical place of public accommodation; and the undisputed facts show a sufficient nexus between defendant's website and its restaurant. The court also held that plaintiff's and the trial court's references to nongovernmental guidelines did not violate defendant's due process rights; the trial court could and did disregard surplus comments plaintiff made about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0; and the specification of WCAG 2.0 guidelines in the injunction did not support or show a due process violation. Finally, the court held that whether defendant's alternative means of communication would be effective was not a triable issue of fact; plaintiff had standing to obtain an injunction; and the injunction mandating compliance with WCAG 2.0 was not overbroad or uncertain. View "Thurston v. Midvale Corp." on Justia Law

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Pneuma sued a former employee, a competitor that employee went to work for, and a Pneuma investor, alleging several business torts including claims under the Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act (Pen. Code section 502); for conversion; and for trespass to chattel relating to an internet domain. The investor filed a cross-complaint against Pneuma and its owner alleging they breached their investor agreement. The trial court ruled against Pneuma except on a single cause of action for trespass to chattel and ruled in favor of the investor on his cross-complaint. The court of appeal affirmed. A determination that a party engaged in trespass to chattel in a business context does not, without more, establish that the party engaged in an unlawful business practice under California’s Unfair Competition Law. (Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200). View "Pneuma International, Inc. v. Cho" on Justia Law

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HomeAway, an online forum that allows owners to list their properties for short-term rentals and connect with individuals who want to rent a house or apartment, rather than stay in a hotel, is not a party to those rental transactions. San Francisco requires owners who rent out property to obtain a registration certificate from the treasurer; short-term renters must pay a transient occupancy tax. A recent report on short-term rentals in San Francisco showed that most owners did not comply with those requirements. San Francisco obtained a court to enforce an administrative subpoena, requiring HomeAway.com to disclose data about San Francisco rental transactions. The court of appeal affirmed the order, rejecting arguments that the subpoena violated the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701–2712, which regulates the government’s ability to compel disclosure of some electronic data stored on the Internet, and that enforcing the subpoena would violate its customers’ constitutional rights. Even if HomeAway is “covered” by the Act, there is no violation because San Francisco used an authorized procedure. In addition, the subpoena does not require HomeAway to disclose electronic communications but seeks very specific information about hosts who use HomeAway to offer to rent property and about bookings. It does not command HomeAway to produce any customer's electronic communication or login information. View "City and County of San Francisco v. HomeAway.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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HomeAway, an online forum that allows owners to list their properties for short-term rentals and connect with individuals who want to rent a house or apartment, rather than stay in a hotel, is not a party to those rental transactions. San Francisco requires owners who rent out property to obtain a registration certificate from the treasurer; short-term renters must pay a transient occupancy tax. A recent report on short-term rentals in San Francisco showed that most owners did not comply with those requirements. San Francisco obtained a court to enforce an administrative subpoena, requiring HomeAway.com to disclose data about San Francisco rental transactions. The court of appeal affirmed the order, rejecting arguments that the subpoena violated the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701–2712, which regulates the government’s ability to compel disclosure of some electronic data stored on the Internet, and that enforcing the subpoena would violate its customers’ constitutional rights. Even if HomeAway is “covered” by the Act, there is no violation because San Francisco used an authorized procedure. In addition, the subpoena does not require HomeAway to disclose electronic communications but seeks very specific information about hosts who use HomeAway to offer to rent property and about bookings. It does not command HomeAway to produce any customer's electronic communication or login information. View "City and County of San Francisco v. HomeAway.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bartholomew publishes Christian ministry music and is a volunteer national spokesperson and the opening act for "Mission: PreBorn" concerts. Bartholomew wrote a pro-life song, “What Was Your Name,” produced a video for the song, and created an account with YouTube, agreeing to be bound by its terms of service. Bartholomew uploaded the video to YouTube, which assigned a URL so that it could be viewed on the internet. Bartholomew publicly shared the URL. By the time YouTube removed it, she claims, the video had been viewed over 30,000 times. The URL for Bartholomew’s video opened an internet page with the image of a distressed face and a statement: This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of Service.’ The screen did not refer to Bartholomew. It contained a hyperlink to a list of examples and tips, YouTube’s “Community Guideline Tips.” Bartholomew sued, claiming that the statement and the Guidelines harmed her reputation (libel per quod). The court of appeal affirmed dismissal, reasoning that, given the breadth of YouTube’s terms of service, and even taking into consideration Bartholomew’s profession, the statement cannot be deemed to subject her to “hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or [cause her] to be shunned or avoided” or tend to “injure [her] in [her] occupation.” View "Bartholomew v. YouTube, LLC" on Justia Law

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Between 1996-1999, Skulason was convicted of three misdemeanors involving the operation of a vehicle. In 2000, she applied for a real estate salesperson’s license. The Bureau of Real Estate initiated an administrative proceeding by filing a statement listing Skulason’s three convictions and alleging that they “constitute[d] cause for denial of [Skulason’s] application,” Gov. Code, 11504. The proceeding settled in 2004. Skulason admitted the allegations; the Board agreed to issue a restricted license. The settlement did not require the parties to maintain its confidentiality. In 2010, Skulason obtained an unrestricted license. Three years later, she obtained court dismissals of her three misdemeanor convictions. The Bureau maintains a public website that contains information about real estate licensees, including Skulason. It identifies her license number, its unrestricted status, the dates of issuance and expiration, and actions the Bureau has taken involving her license. Under the heading “Disciplinary or Formal Action Documents,” is a link to the case number of the administrative proceeding that resulted in Skulason’s 2004 restricted license. The court of appeal reversed an order that the Bureau remove the information. The Board has no mandatory duty to remove from its website publicly available information about a licensee’s convictions, including convictions that are eventually dismissed under Penal Code sections 1203.4 and 1203.4a. View "Skulason v. California Bureau of Real Estate" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are Cross, also known as Mikel Knight, a country rap artist, and his businesses. Two vans, carrying independent contractors promoting Knight’s music, were involved in accidents that resulted in two deaths. “Families Against Mikel Knight,” apparently created by relatives of the accident victims, posted a Facebook page, which, plaintiffs claimed, incited violence and generated death threats against Knight. Plaintiffs sought to have the page removed. Facebook refused. Facebook filed a special motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ subsequent suit, which alleged breach of written contract; negligent misrepresentation; negligent interference with prospective economic relations; breach of Civil Code section 3344; violation of common law right of publicity; and unlawful and unfair business practices. The trial court held that the complaint was based on protected activity, that plaintiffs could not prevail on the first three causes of action, and granted the anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, Code of Civil Procedure 425.16) motion as to them but denied the motion as to the three other causes of action. The court of appeal ruled in favor of Facebook and ordered that the complaint be stricken, noting that Facebook derived no benefit from any use of Knight’s name or likeness. View "Cross v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

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FilmOn filed suit against DoubleVerify for trade libel, slander, and other business-related torts, alleging DoubleVerify falsely classified FilmOn's websites under the categories "Copyright Infringement-File Sharing" and "Adult Content" in confidential reports to certain clients that subsequently cancelled advertising agreements with FilmOn. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of DoubleVerify's motion to strike pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute. The court held that the trial court properly found DoubleVerify engaged in conduct in furtherance of its constitutional right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest. View "FilmOn.com v. DoubleVerify, Inc." on Justia Law