SW Legal studies in Business

ISP Operator Immune from Liability for Defamatory Statements Posted on Website
Description

Appeals court held that an ISP operator is immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act for the posting of defamatory material on the site. The operator did not solicit the defamatory material nor create the website to attract such material.

Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words

Liability; Defamation; Communications Decency Act; ISP Provider

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

The Johnsons live in Missouri where they own and operate an exotic cat breeding business called Cozy Kitten Cattery, a limited liability company. They have a trademark for the name of the business and a website. Someone posted allegedly defamatory statements about Cozy on the interactive website www.ComplaintsBoard.com, saying that the Johnsons kill cats, rip off cat breeders, steal kittens, that their cats are infected, and that they are con artists. The Johnsons sued the operators of ComplaintsBoard for defamation, contending they lost business as a result of the statements. The case was removed to federal district court in Missouri, which dismissed the claims. The Johnsons appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. The ISP is immune under the Communications Decency Act (CDA). It bars plaintiffs from holding ISPs legally responsible for information that third parties create and develop. The ComplaintsBoard was not developed to induce defamatory postings, and the ISP was not an information content provider. The parties named as defendant in the suit were not shown to have been the likely author of the statements that triggered the action.

Citation

Johnson v. Arden, ---F.3d--- (2010 WL 3023660, 8th Cir., 2010)

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