This is the fourth in a series of blog articles relating to the topics to be discussed at the 30th Annual Media and the Law Seminar in Kansas City, Missouri on May 4-5, 2017. Blaine C. Kimrey and Bryan K. Clark of Vedder Price are on the planning committee for the conference. In this article, we discuss how CNN is using advertising guidelines to fight back at being labeled “fake news.” The intersection of technology, truth, and the First Amendment will be among the topics to be discussed at the 2017 seminar.

Since the 2016 presidential election, the term “fake news” has become a ubiquitous part of our media and political vocabulary. But as we all know, the “fake news” label is often, well, “fake.”  So what can media entities do when they are unfairly tagged with the “fake news” moniker?  Normally not much—the First Amendment would make it rather difficult to challenge the truth of a such a hyperbolic claim (and realistically, the media has no real interest in curtailing these free speech rights).  CNN, however, has found a way to fight back that is sure to stir debate in media, legal and political circles. Continue Reading Is It “Fake News” To Call The Media “Fake News?”

This is the second in a series of blog articles relating to the topics to be discussed at the 30th Annual Media and the Law Seminar in Kansas City, Missouri on May 45, 2017. Blaine C. Kimrey and Bryan K. Clark of Vedder Price are on the planning committee for the conference. In this article, we discuss a recent Ninth Circuit decision relating to the summary judgment standard for a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) affirmative defense. The ins and outs of the DMCA will be among of the topics at the 2017 seminar.

Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling that will make it more difficult for Internet service providers to rely on the DMCA safe harbor to prevail at the summary judgment stage. In Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc., Case No. 14-56596 (9th Cir. April 7, 2017), the court overturned the district court’s summary judgment finding for the defendant, ruling that the common law of agency applied and there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the moderators at issue in this case were “agents” of the defendant. This finding will make summary judgment harder to achieve for Internet service providers and may make them rethink the roles that moderators play in assessing content on their Web sites. Continue Reading DMCA and monitoring – damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

Businesses have largely benefitted from the proliferation of mobile devices and text messaging apps that facilitate quick, round-the-clock communications. However, such technologies also make it increasingly difficult to monitor and control the unauthorized distribution of confidential data. On March 30, UK regulators fined a former managing director of Jeffries Group for divulging confidential client information. The banker, Christopher Niehaus, shared confidential information with two friends using WhatsApp, a popular text messaging app. The exposed information included the identity of a Jeffries Group client, the details of a deal involving the client, and the bank’s fee for the transaction. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this story is that the leak was discovered at all. Because data sent on WhatsApp are encrypted and Mr. Niehaus used his personal mobile phone to send the messages, Jeffries Group only viewed the communications—and subsequently informed regulators—after Mr. Niehaus turned his device over to the bank in connection with an unrelated investigation. Continue Reading Encrypted Messaging Apps Create New Data Privacy Headaches for Employers

I. Overview

While the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (the TCCWNA) has been around for over 30 years, there has been a recent surge in the filing of class action lawsuits under the statute against businesses engaged in e-commerce. The statute was enacted in 1981 to regulate “consumer contracts, warranties, notices and signs contain[ing] provisions which clearly violate the rights of consumers.” Although such provisions are legally unenforceable, the legislature reasoned that “their very inclusion in a contract, warranty, notice or sign deceives a consumer into thinking that they are enforceable and for this reason the consumer often fails to enforce his rights.”

Initially, the statute was not used very much and remained dormant during the first 30 years following its enactment. Recently, however, the plaintiffs’ bar has resurrected the statute, targeting the website terms and conditions of businesses engaged in e-commerce. This resurrection began in 2013 as a result of the New Jersey Supreme Court holding that certificates issued by restaurants and offered for purchase by an Internet marketer are subject to TCCWNA rules1, and it has continued for a few reasons. First, plaintiffs are asserting that the TCCWNA is very broad in scope. Indeed, plaintiffs’ lawyers contend that it applies to consumers who suffered no actual injury. Additionally, the statute provides for statutory damages of $100 per customer as well as attorney’s fees and costs, which creates the potential for very large monetary awards. Finally, while more guidance is necessary to determine how courts will treat e-commerce TCCWNA claims, there have been several plaintiff-friendly TCCWNA decisions in New Jersey. Continue Reading New Jersey Consumer Statute Presents Trap for Unwary Retailers Engaged in E-Commerce

This is the first in a series of blog articles relating to the topics to be discussed at the 30th Annual Media and the Law Seminar in Kansas City, Missouri on May 4-5, 2017. Blaine C. Kimrey and Bryan K. Clark of Vedder Price are on the planning committee for the conference. In this article, we explore recent developments related to “champerty,” which involves the funding of a lawsuit by a person with no direct interest in the case. The topic of revenge and retaliation against the media through litigation funding will be one of the topics at the 2017 seminar.

Earlier this month, Hulk Hogan settled his lawsuit against what remains of Gawker Media for $31 million, bringing to an end years of litigation that resulted in a stunning $140 million verdict that rocked the media defense bar. But the lasting implications of the case that ultimately shuttered Gawker.com remain unclear. For lawyers who defend media entities, the Gawker case is viewed as a cautionary tale of bad facts making bad law and the dangers of going against an adversary funded by an enemy with deep pockets. But not everyone agrees with this perspective. Speaking recently to the National Press Club, Peter Thiel (the billionaire who funded Hogan’s litigation) seemed to suggest that it was Hogan, rather than Gawker, who was unable to get fair treatment in the courts. “One of the striking things is if you are middle class, upper middle class, a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system,” Thiel said. “It costs too much.” Continue Reading What Hath Hulk Wrought – Media Girds for Battle vs. Billionaires

For years, we have been documenting the rise in wage/hour class action lawsuits and precautionary steps your organization may take to mitigate the risks and liability inherent in those claims. And, while wage/hour lawsuits continue to be filed at record rates, the plaintiffs’ bar is now flirting with a new type of class action lawsuit which poses a threat to any employer that operates a website. These lawsuits allege that company websites are inaccessible to the blind and/or visually impaired and therefore violate Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and various states’ laws.

Background

Title III prohibits discrimination against individuals “on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.” Title III requires “reasonable modification” of “policies, practices, and procedures” and the provision of “auxiliary aids” to ensure effective communication with the disabled. A flurry of recent lawsuits and attorney demand letters allege that websites violate Title III because they are not accessible to the visually impaired; for example, that they are not compatible with screen-reading software that describes images on the website, that they require the use of a mouse instead of making all functionality available from a keyboard, or that video content does not contain an audio description.

Because these lawsuits are relatively new, courts are split as to whether Title III applies only to websites that have a sufficient nexus to a company’s physical locations, or whether it applies to websites in and of themselves. Most of these cases are in the early stages of litigation and, so far, provide little substantive guidance on what steps, if any, businesses must take to make their websites compliant with Title III. Continue Reading Is Your Website Accessible to the Blind and Visually Impaired? Plaintiffs’ Firms and the Department of Justice Are Taking Notice

In a well-reasoned and encouraging decision to Internet businesses, the Northern District of Illinois recently found that even operating one of the largest, most popular websites in the world is not enough to create personal jurisdiction everywhere the site can be accessed. See Gullen v. Facebook, Inc., Case No. 15-cv-07681 (Jan. 21, 2016 N.D. Ill.). The court relied heavily on the Supreme Court’s decision in Walden v. Fiore, 134 S. Ct. 1115 (2014), and the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Advanced Tactical Ordnance Sys. LLC v. Real Action Paintball, LLC, 751 F.3d 796 (7th Cir. 2014), to hold that the Northern District of Illinois lacked specific personal jurisdiction over defendant Facebook.

The plaintiff in Gullen alleged that Facebook had unlawfully obtained and stored his biometric information without authorization. Id. At 2. To support personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff argued that Facebook was registered to do business in Illinois, had a sales and advertising office in Illinois, and “target[s] its facial recognition technology to millions of users who are residents of Illinois.” Id. at 3-4. The court found these alleged contacts insufficient to confer specific personal jurisdiction because the plaintiff had not connected the allegedly wrongful conduct to the Illinois business registration or office and had tacitly admitted that Facebook’s alleged collection of biometric information was not targeted at Illinois residents but instead applied to Facebook users generally. Id. “[T]he Seventh Circuit has rejected the notion that an online merchant’s operation of an interactive site is sufficient to confer specific jurisdiction on it in every state from which the site can be accessed. . . . Because plaintiff does not allege that Facebook targets its alleged biometric collection activities at Illinois residents, the fact that its site is accessible to Illinois residents does not confer specific jurisdiction over Facebook.” Id. at 4-5.

Facebook is, of course, a global social media presence with substantial connections to Illinois. Nevertheless, the court emphasized that the contacts must be contacts that the defendant (not the plaintiff or a third party) created. Id. at 3 (“We have consistently rejected attempts to satisfy the defendant-focused ‘minimum contacts’ inquiry by demonstrating contacts between the plaintiff (or third parties) and the forum State.”). The court found there was no personal jurisdiction because “plaintiff does not, and could not plausibly, allege that Facebook knew an Illinois resident would upload a photo of him and tag his name to it, thereby (allegedly) giving Facebook access to plaintiff’s biometric information.” Id. at 5.

In light of Walden, Advanced Tactical and Gullen, defendants in cases arising from alleged online conduct should carefully consider challenging personal jurisdiction. If a site like Facebook with “millions” of in-state contacts is not subject to personal jurisdiction, many other Internet companies should be able to successfully challenge personal jurisdiction based on the rationale laid out in these decisions.