South-Western Legal Studies in Business
SOUTH-WESTERN LEGAL STUDIES IN BUSINESS CASE UPDATES—CYBERLAW
SW Legal's Case Updates is a SW Legal Studies service to provide briefs of the latest state and federal court cases. Review the summaries and, for cases of interest, select the case brief. If you cannot find a case of interest,return to Topic Index .
Title
Summary
ISP Operator Immune from Liability for Defamatory Statements Posted on Website
Briefed Case
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.
(Updated October 2010)
Website Operator Has Reporter Privileges Protected by First Amendment
Briefed Case
New Hampshire high court held that a company complaining about information posted about it on a website cannot force the material to be removed; it is protected by First Amendment. The identity of an anonymous visitor need not be revealed unless it is shown that there is a likelihood of defamation.
(Updated August 2010)
Class Action Settlement for Security Breach Squelched
Briefed Case
Trial court refused to adopt a settlement proposed in a class action suit against a brokerage firm that allowed spammers access to their clientsí email information. The proposed settlement did little for those who suffered the security breach; it mainly enriched the lawyers who handled the matter.
(Updated June 2010)
Software Company May Sue Party Who Falsely Reported Piracy by the Company
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a software company, falsely accused of piracy and copyright violation to an industry trade association, showed sufficient grounds to sue the party who made the false claim. The trade association that knew the name of the party may be forced to reveal that identity once the trial court reviews constitutional issues.
(Updated November 2009)
MySpace Not Responsible for Assault by Users Who Came Into Contact with Each Other
Briefed Case
Court dismissed a suit against MySpace by a minor girl who contended that she was lured into a sexual assault through MySpace. It is protected by the Communications Decency Act for liability as it is not an information content provider.
(Updated September 2009)
Subpoena Sufficient to Force Most Emails to Be Produced for Authorities
Briefed Case
Court held that government investigators had the right to subpoena all emails in the account of a suspect. Emails that are in a system so that they can be retrieved by the subscriber are subject to access by subpoena. A warrant is not required.
(Updated September 2009)
States May Regulate Internet-Based Payday Loan Operations
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the state of Kansas could make an Internet-based payday lender subject to the same licensing procedures as applied to payday lenders located physically in the state. The regulation was applied evenly to all such lenders.
(Updated August 2009)
Use of Firm Name as Keyword by Google Is Possible Infringement
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the holder of a trademark could proceed against Google for trademark infringement in violation of the Lanham Act. The use of a trademark as a keyword that Google sold to other companies in their effort to attract searchers may be infringement.
(Updated June 2009)
Files Moved By Internet Presumed to Move Interstate
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a man convicted of possession of child pornography on his computer, who downloaded the images, can reasonably be presumed to have received images that moved across state lines, making the act a violation of federal law.
(Updated June 2009)
False Light Invasion of Privacy Could Exist for False Attribution to Website
Briefed Case
A former employee was falsely listed as registrant on a website created by a former employer. The website drew scorn and discussion, so the former employee claimed false light invasion of privacy. Missouri appeals court held that this novel claim would go to trial.
(Updated April 2009)
Website Advertising Created Sufficient Basis for Long-Arm Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a Tennessee resident who allegedly infringed a trademark of a Florida resident on a Tennessee website is subject to jurisdiction of courts in Florida for purposes of the trademark suit. The long-arm statute applies since the website was intended to help attract business in Florida.
(Updated February 2009)
Use of Metatags Was Infringement of Marks that Allowed Damages to Be Awarded
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the owner of trademarks used without permission in metatags on a retailerís site to help draw customers could recover lost profits and attorneys fees as the use of the trademarks was willful trademark infringement in violation of the Lanham Act.
(Updated January 2009)
Copyrighted Open Source Software Due Full Copyright Law Protection
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that copyrighted open source software is subject to the same protection as copyrighted software sold for a price. The holder of the software, in licensing its use, can determine the terms of use, such as modification and use in other formats.
(Updated December 2008)
Conviction Upheld for Internet Wine Sales to Under-Age Buyer in Sting Operation
Briefed Case
Massachusetts high court upheld the use of a sting operation in which an underage buyer lied on an Internet wine purchase. The buyer could not complain of being entrapped since it voluntarily sold to an underage buyer.
(Updated May 2008)
Grand Jury Subpoena Required to Obtain Information from ISP about Subscriber
Briefed Case
New Jersey high court held that a municipal court subpoena did not sufficiently protect the privacy interests of an Internet service subscriber. To obtain records of the subscriber from the ISP, a grand jury subpoena must be obtained by authorities.
(Updated May 2008)
ISP Not Liable for Discriminatory Content in Ad Postings
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that craigslist is not liable for ads posted for rental property that contained possibly illegal discriminatory content. It is the carrier of the material, it is not responsible for screening it for compliance with the law.
(Updated April 2008)
Victim of Hacking Into Email System Has Right to Identity of Hacker
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a firm that had its secure email system hacked had the right to force discovery of the person who sent emails into the hacked system, but the senderís ISP first must notify the hacker of the request so he or she can volunteer before a court order before discovery is issued.
(Updated January 2008)
No Copyright for Website Lacking Any Original Elements
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld rejection of a copyright for a website design that merely used existing works and put labels and colors on them. While the standard of originality is low, this fell below that.
(Updated November 2007)
E-mails Protected by Fourth Amendment Right of Privacy
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld an injunction against government search of all e-mails of a person suspected of committing certain crimes. As e-mails are protected by the Fourth Amendment, investigators must obtain a warrant to seize e-mails expected to be linked to the alleged criminal activity.
(Updated October 2007)
Government Is Free to Obtain E-mail Addresses and Internet Search Addresses
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld a criminal conviction where evidence had been obtained, without a warrant, by use of Internet access by defendant that showed e-mail addresses, inbound and outbound, and website addresses visited. No warrant is required to obtain such information.
(Updated August 2007)
Message Board Operator Not Liable for False Comments Posted by Users
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a company that claimed to be defamed and cyberstalked by users of a message board had no grounds for suit against the provider of the board. The Communications Decency Act specifically provided immunity for such operators.
(Updated June 2007)
Allowing Internet Access to Child Porn Is Illegal Distribution
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld conviction for distribution of child pornography by a computer user who freely allowed others to access his Kazaa folder that contained illegal photographs.
(Updated May 2007)
Theft of Electronic Files Is Common Law Conversion
Briefed Case
New York high court held that the doctrine of conversion applies to intangible goods such as electronic files on computers. The taking of such property will be treated the same at law as the taking of physical property.
(Updated May 2007)
Spam Can Be Sent if Not Misleading and If It Provides Opt-Out Options
Briefed Case
Appeals court dismissed a suit by a recipient of spam from a travel company. The spam sender complied with federal CAN-SPAM requirements by providing opt-out options. The federal law generally preempts state law. Most spam is not a trespass on to computers.
(Updated May 2007)
Web Users Who Republish False Information Not Liable
Briefed Case
California high court held that under the Communication Decency Act an Internet provider or user cannot be held liable for the publication of defamatory material provided by another. There is no obligation to not post or pass on false material even if notified that it is potentially defamatory.
(Updated March 2007)
Electronic Publication of Copyrighted Materials without Permission Is Infringement
Briefed Case
Trial court held that for a website to publish electronic versions of copyrighted material is infringement and must be halted. The court also held that the copyrights could not be asserted to have been abandoned under the doctrine of adverse possession.
(Updated January 2007)
Lack of Access for the Blind to Store Website May Violate Disability Law
Briefed Case
Court held that plaintiffs had stated a cause of action against Target for failure by the retailer to make its website accessible to the blind. Such failure of access is likely to be covered by the American with Disabilities Act, so the case may proceed.
(Updated October 2006)
Chat Room Discussions about Illegal Matters Provides Basis for Warrant
Briefed Case
Court held that agents had adequate probable cause to obtain a search warrant for an e-mail account and an apartment based on chat room discussions about child pornography that led to an e-mail sending pornography to an agent who was monitoring the chat room.
(Updated October 2006)
Entering New, False Data into Computer System not Hacking
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the conviction of a state employee who sold state ID cards to persons who should not have received them. However, entering false information about these persons into the state computer system did not constitute hacking, which is modifying existing information.
(Updated August 2006)
One Unsolicited E-mail Not Sufficient to Establish Personal Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Utah supreme court held that a single unsolicited ad received by a consumer in Utah who complained that it did not contain the needed indications that it was an advertisement was insufficient contact with Utah to establish jurisdiction over the company.
(Updated May 2006)
Internet Advertisement Not Sufficient Contact for Court to Have Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Louisiana courts did not have personal jurisdiction over Texas businesses that installed equipment in a car that was sold in Texas to Texas residents. The equipment was alleged to have caused a death in an accident that happened in Louisiana. The only contact by the Texas businesses in Louisiana was by their websites, which was insufficient.
(Updated April 2006)
Identity of Anonymous Blog Poster Cannot Be Forced Unless Plaintiff Likely to Prevail
Briefed Case
Delaware high court held that a person criticized in a blog could not force the website host to reveal the identity of the anonymous blog poster unless the person who suffered the criticism could show that he was likely to prevail in his claim that he suffered defamation.
(Updated March 2006)
Competitor's Pop-Ups Did Not Violate Trademark Law
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a pop-up ad that directed visitors to a website to visit the website of a competitor did not violate the trademark of the website owner because it made no use of any trademarks and did not affect the functionality of the website.
(Updated February 2006)
ISP Could Close E-mail Account It Thought Was Used for Spamming
Briefed Case
An ISP closed down an e-mail account and temporarily reported it as a spammer before it learned that the heavy use of the account was proper. Appeals court held that the subscriber had no cause of action for the problems he suffered, as the ISP's actions were in good faith in the ordinary course of business.
(Updated July 2005)
ISPs Need Not Provide Data about Subscribers Who Are File Sharing
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the owners of copyrighted songs being sent in file form on the Internet did not have the right to obtain a subpoena to serve on ISP to force them to provide details about the owners of Internet addresses.
(Updated June 2005)
Web Site Critical of Business Violated No Law
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a domain name and website obtained by a consumer angry at a business, and used to explain why the consumer was angry at the business, did not violate the law against cybersquatting. There was no effort to profit from the site.
(Updated March 2005)
Website Bashing a Company Not in Violation of Federal Laws
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a website designed to be critical of a company and that drew on the name of the company, did not violate the company's trademark and was not cybersquatting as there was no commercial intent by the creator of the site.
(Updated December 2004)
ISP Not Liable for Infringement by Posting Copyrighted Photos
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protected an ISP that posted some copyrighted photos that were provided by clients. The ISP made a good faith effort to limit the infringing postings.
(Updated October 2004)
Vermont Law Criminalizing Websites with "Sexually Explicit Materials" Stricken
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the state of Virginia had jurisdiction over control of property for purposes of compliance with wetlands regulations. The property, bordered by a highway, was connected to a navigable waterway more than two miles away by manmade ditches that carried water only intermittently. Under federal law, this constitutes a wetland, and Virginia law is the same as federal law for that purpose.
(Updated March 2004)
Sending Pop-Up Ads to Competitor Website Enjoined
Briefed Case
Trial court issued an injunction against a retailer and its software company from sending pop-up ads for the retailer to appear on the website of a competitor retailer when the website was visited by a customer. The website operator showed there was likely to be a violation of its trademark and of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
(Updated February 2004)
Personal E-mails of State Employees on Public Computers Not Subject to Public Disclosure
Briefed Case
The Florida high court held that personal e-mails sent or received by state or local employees on government computers are not subject to disclosure as public records. The employees could, without supervision, sort their e-mails into public and private categories.
(Updated November 2003)
Cookies Used to Collect Personal Data Violate ECPA Unless Consent Given
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that if cookies are used by a website operator to gather personal information about the website users, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act has been violated unless consent was given.
(Updated July 2003)
ISP Providers Must Provide Identity of Subscribers Who May Have Violated Copyrights
Briefed Case
The owners of copyrights have the right to serve a subpoena on an ISP to obtain the identity of a subscriber who may have violated their copyrights by the illegal downloading of music on the Internet. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides limited liability for ISP providers but requires them to reveal identities of subscribers who may have violated the law.
(Updated June 2003)
Jurisdiction Requirements for U.S. Court Over Spanish Web Site Operator Explained
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a Spanish web site operator that used a valid trademark and domain name of a U.S. firm did not do business in the U.S. so as to create personal jurisdiction in U.S. court. However, the U.S. firm claiming infringement has discovery jurisdiction to explore its claims of trademark infringement.
(Updated April 2003)
Cybersquatting Suit Must Be Filed in Proper Judicial District
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the owner of a trademark that wished to challenge domain names that used their registered trademark as part of a domain name must bring suit in the judicial district in which a domain-name authority is located.
(Updated March 2003)
Internet Provider Must Provide Names of Subscribers in Deposition
Briefed Case
Virginia high court held that under rules of comity, a Virginia Internet service provider must submit to a deposition to provide information for use in litigation in California that involves an unidentified subscriber accused of defamation.
(Updated March 2003)
Lack of Access by the Blind to Websites Does Not Violate Disabilities Act
Briefed Case
Court dismissed a suit by a disability access group against Southwest Airlines that contended the firm violated the ADA by not having voice-assisted software to run its website for the visually impaired. The ADA concerns physical locations, not websites, so the law provided no basis for litigation.
(Updated March 2003)
Arbitration Clause in Free Software Not Enforceable
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the mandatory arbitration clause contained in the license agreement that software users would click when downloading free software, which allowed the software provider to download information from the users' computers, was not enforceable because it is unlikely that many consumers read the agreement.
(Updated January 2003)
Search Engine Thumbnail Image Reproductions Are Fair Use
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that a search engine could display thumbnail-size images of copyrighted photographs as fair use. But display of full size images, brought up by clicking on the small image, is infringement of the copyrighted material.
(Updated April 2002)
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Applied to Firm That Scraped Competitor's Website
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in a case where former employees, now in a competing company, used knowledge from their previous employment to be able to scrape proprietary information for commercial gain from their former employer's website.
(Updated February 2002)
Search Warrants May Allow Computer Keystrokes to Be Recorded
Briefed Case
Court denied a motion to suppress evidence gathered by the FBI by putting a Key Logger System on a computer to allow them to learn the password to access a file containing information about illegal activities. Such data collection is allowed under a search warrant and is not a wiretap since it did not involve intercepting information sent by modem.
(Updated February 2002)
Amazon Not Liable for Posting Negative Comments About Book Author
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that Amazon was immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act in a suit for breach of contract and defamation brought by a book author who was unhappy about negative book reviews posted by Amazon on its web site.
(Updated November 1, 2001)
No Internet Privacy for Employee Violating Confidentiality Agreement
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that Yahoo! must reveal the identity of a person who posted confidential information on a message board dedicated to information about a company. Since the message was posted by an employee who had signed a confidentiality agreement, the person lost her First Amendment right of anonymous free speech.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
Missouri Court Has No Jurisdiction Over Operator of Non-Business Website in California
Briefed Case
Court ordered that a suit for trademark infringement be transferred from Missouri to California. A Missouri company owns a trademark, Virtual Car, that a California resident used on a website, virtualcar.com. Since the website never transacted business, Missouri had no jurisdiction over the California resident.
(Updated October 1, 2001)
Anticybersquatting Law Applies to Squatters, Not Registrars of Domain Names
Briefed Case
Court rejected a claim by the owner of legitimate domain names that the registrar of domain names, Network Solutions, was liable for allowing cybersquatters to register domain names that may infringe on legitimate marks. The liability for squatting is on the parties who register the infringing names, not the registrar.
(Updated September 1, 2001)
Cybersquatter Violated Anitcybersquatting Consumer Protection Act
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed that a cybersquatter who registered vw.net did so in bad faith for the primary purpose of selling the name. Volkswagen's trademark was infringed upon and the company had the right to have the domain name turned over to it.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
State Commercial E-Mail Regulation Held Constitutional
Briefed Case
The Washington state high court upheld the constitutionality of the state's commercial e-mail statute that prohibits the use of false or misleading information lines and transmission paths in the distribution of e-mails in or out of the state.
(Updated August 1, 2001)
Employer Has Obligation Not to Let Employees' Bulletin Board Be Source of Harassment
Briefed Case
The New Jersey high court held that employees who wrote negative comments on an company electronic bulletin board about a female employee who was suing the company for sex discrimination could be subject to suit for defamation, and the company could be responsible for hostile work environment for not remedying such use of the bulletin board.
(Updated July 1, 2001)
No First Amendment Right to Broadcast Executions on the Internet
Briefed Case
Federal court rejected an Internet news provider's claim of First Amendment right to provide a live broadcast of the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Since other forms of news broadcasts are allowed, the challenge to the regulation restricting live broadcasts fails.
(Updated June 1, 2001)
Partners in Online Venture Subject to Personal Jurisdiction in State of One Partner
Briefed Case
Federal court in Virginia held that a company that hired a Virginia company to design and run its website, in exchange for a partnership share of the parent company, was subject to personal jurisdiction of the court in the home state of the website company and that the case would not be moved to another state.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
No Right to Privacy in Communications in E-mail or Chat Rooms
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed a criminal conviction of a man who communicated with a minor on the Internet. Knowing her real age, he sent her pornographic materials and requested that she have sex with him. The forwarding of these communications to the police did not violate the law controlling wiretaps and did not violate a constitutionally protected expectation of privacy.
(Updated May 1, 2001)

ISP May Be Liable for Knowingly Hosting Trademark Infringing Website
Briefed Case

Court refused to dismiss a suit against an ISP that hosted a website accused of infringing a valid trademark. Since the ISP had been notified that the website was infringing a mark, and it did nothing to prevent the website from continuing, the ISP may have contributed to the infringement and is not protected by the First Amendment or by the Communications Decency Act.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Fraud to Obtain Domain Name Means sex.com Transfers Immediately to Rightful Owner
Briefed Case
Court found that the holder of the domain name, sex.com, which generated substantial revenue, used fraud to obtain the name from Network Solutions. The court ordered the domain name to be returned immediately to its rightful owner and froze $25 million in assets of the defendant.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Chat Room Postings About Public Company Could Not Support Libel Suit
Briefed Case
Court dismissed a libel suit brought by a public company subject to critical remarks posted by various parties in an open chat room devoted to the company. The postings were the personal opinion of the participants in the chat room and were protected speech. No one reading the postings would think the material was anything other than personal opinion.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Anonymous Discovery Request to ISP for Information on Chat Room Participants Quashed
Briefed Case
The Virginia high court held that Virginia courts would not require AOL to provide information about unidentified chat room participants to an anonymous company that requested the identities to be provided so it could sue the participants for defaming the company. The need for privacy was outweighed by the presumption of openness in judicial proceedings.
(Updated May 1, 2001)
Federal Law Blocks Application of State Obscenity Law to Internet Service Providers
Briefed Case
The Florida high court held that the federal Communications Decent Act preempts state law regarding the distribution of illegal child pornography via the Internet. The mother of a child whose photographs were taken by a child pornographer who marketed the photos on AOL could not sue AOL.
(Updated April 1, 2001)
Contents of Secure Websites Are Protected by the Wiretap Act and Stored Communications Act
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that an employee's suit against his employer for violations of the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act may proceed. The employer gained access to the employee's secure website that contained information critical of the employer. The employer used false means to obtain entry to the site.
(Updated March 1, 2001)
Top Level Domain Names Are Not Protected Speech
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed dismissal of suit brought by firm that began using Top Level Domain names not restricted by the existing system of seven names determined by NSI. The orderly transition of the Internet to a more open domain name system justified, at least for a time, the restrictions on Top Level Domain names.
(Updated March 1, 2001)
Napster Transmission of Audio Files Was Not Fair Use; Injunction Against Operation to Stand
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld an injunction against the operation of Napster, an Internet service provider that facilitated the copying of music files. The copying is infringement, not fair use, and Napster is liable for contributory and vicarious infringement. The court may enjoin the operation rather than order payment of royalties to music owners.
(Updated March 1, 2001)
Restrictions on Web Site Contents Must Be Narrowly Tailored
Briefed Case
Appeals court lifted an injunction imposed by a trial court against much of the content on a web site run by Skippy, Inc., owner of "Skippy" the cartoon character, which was sued by the maker of "Skippy" peanut butter. Injunctions against speech on the web raise First Amendment issues that must be carefully addressed.
(Updated September 1, 2000)
Website With Alleged Defamatory Material Not Enough to Establish Jurisdiction in Forum State
Briefed Case
Federal court in Mississippi dismissed a suit filed by a Mississippi firm against a Florida competitor that posted allegedly defamatory material on its website. This passive site was not enough to establish jurisdiction under the due process clause, so the suit was dismissed.
(Updated August 1, 2000)
Amazon.com Allowed to Enjoin a Competitor That Copied Its Patented Ordering System
Briefed Case
Trial judge held that Amazon.com was entitled to a preliminary injunction against a competitor that copied Amazon's patented "one-click" shopping method. Evidence indicated that the validity of the patent may well be upheld at trial, so Amazon could prevent competitors from copying its protected method until final resolution of the matter.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Intrastate Bomb Threat Subject to Federal Law
Briefed Case
Appeals court affirmed the conviction of an AOL user who sent a bomb threat to an AOL staff member in the same state. This violated the federal statute against threatening communication in interstate commerce. The fact that the message was transmitted within one state did not matter because phone lines are in interstate commerce.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Insurance Company Might Be Liable for Y2K Remediation Expenses
Briefed Case
A New York court denied a motion to throw out a case brought by Xerox against an insurance company that issued a policy covering certain losses due to software problems. While the federal Y2K Act did not apply to this case, the matter would proceed to trial to determine if the insurance would cover Xerox's costs.
(Updated June 1, 2000)
Using a Competitor's Trademark in Domain Name Is Cybersquatting
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act required that a firm that registered and used a domain name that contained a competitors well-known trademark was in bad faith. The domain name must be released to the trademark owner.
(Updated May 1, 2000)
Employers May Search Employees' Computer Files at Work
Briefed Case
Appeals court upheld the conviction of an employee who downloaded child pornography on his computer at work. The material was discovered during employer searches of employees' computers at work, which were only to be used for work-related matters. The employee's right to privacy was not violated by the search and seizure.
(Updated May 1, 2000)
Y2K Act Does Not Create Exclusive Federal Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Plaintiff sued numerous computer retailers for misleading consumers about likely Y2K problems. Defendants' motion to move the case to federal court under the Y2K Act was denied because the Act did not create an exclusive federal cause of action, so the case could be heard in state court.
(Updated April 1, 2000)
No Prior Restraint on Internet Postings, But Poster of Protected Materials May Face Liability
Briefed Case
Federal judge denied Ford Motor's request to enjoin a website operator critical of Ford from posting certain materials; such an injunction would violate Free Speech rights. However, the website operator may face liability for obtaining trade secrets or other confidential materials that are the property of Ford.
(Updated April 1, 2000)
E-Mails Regarding Potential Litigation Protected from Disclosure
Briefed Case
Trial court ruled that the defendant in a suit involving goods damaged in shipment did not have to give copies of e-mails that contained evaluations of possible liability in anticipation of litigation to the plaintiff. Regular e-mail communications among defendant employees regarding the matter prior to litigation did have to be given to plaintiff.
(Updated February 1, 2000)
Electronic Databases Cannot Copy Copyrighted Articles Without Permission
Briefed Case
Authors of copyrighted articles published in various print media were held to have maintained their right over the sale or granting the use of their articles in electronic databases. The original publisher cannot allow the articles to be used in such databases without permission of the authors.
(Updated January 1, 2000)
Downloading Illegal Porn to Computer Is Possession, Not Shipping or Transporting
Briefed Case
Appeals court held that downloading illegal pornography to one's computer results in illegal possession of the material, but not the shipping or transporting of the material, which is a more serious offense.
(Updated January 1, 2000)
"You Have Mail" And Other Email Terms Are Generic
Briefed Case
Federal district court held that "You Have Mail," "Buddy Lists," and "IM," as well as the mailbox icon for email are generic trademarks that may not be protected by AOL, so its suit against AT&T for using such terms was dismissed. The terms had been in use before AOL claimed ownership.
(Updated January 1, 2000
)
Web Site Insufficient to Give Courts Jurisdiction in Tort Action
Briefed Case
The Montana high court held that Montana courts did not have jurisdiction over a Canadian maker of a motor home that was involved in a fatal accident in Montana. Those passengers in the motor home were not residents of Montana. The fact that the motor home maker maintained a web site that could be viewed in Montana was not sufficient to give the courts jurisdiction.
(Updated December 1, 1999)
Failure to Remove Name of Former Employee from Web Site Is Not Unauthorized Use for Advertising Purposes
Briefed Case
The web site of a dance center continued to list the name of a former employee as a contact person for the center for a year after she was no longer employed there. Court held that such use of her name was "fleeting and incidental," so was not an actionable misuse for advertising purposes.
(Updated September 1, 1999)
South Carolina Business Web Site Did Not Create Personal Jurisdiction in Oregon
Briefed Case
Federal court dismissed suit by Oregon retailer with Web site that has very similar name to South Carolina retailer with Web site. Court in Oregon has no jurisdiction over South Carolina company that does very little business in Oregon.
(Updated May 1, 1999)
On-Line Server Not Publisher of Defamatory E-Mail Delivered Via Server
Briefed Case
Appeals court granted summary judgment to Prodigy, which was sued by a person who was falsely accused of sending a crank e-mail. Court held that since Prodigy does not control the content of e-mails, it is not liable for defamatory materials that may be sent without its knowledge.
(Updated April 1, 1999)
Company That Hired Spammer Not Liable for Errors in Transmission
Briefed Case
Company hired computer consultant to distribute ads for its services. The spam contained a domain name that belonged to another, which resulted in thousands of messages tying up that party's computer. No liability to be imposed on hiring company; it did not control details of the spamming.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Spammer Trespassed on AOL and Violated AOL Trademark
Briefed Case
Owner of a marketing company is held liable for common law trespass and Lanham Act violations for sending 60 million AOL subscribers bulk e-mail ads (spam), despite AOL's warnings to cease.
(Updated March 1, 1999)
Non-Commercial Web Site Discussion of Company Not Grounds for Personal Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Texas web site requested negative information about two Indiana companies by name, who sued web site author for various torts. Indiana courts do not have personal jurisdiction over web site author because of lack of commercial activity in Indiana and lack of direct communications.
(Updated 10-19-98)
Internet Sales Alone Insufficient to Confer Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Connecticut company's suit against out-of-state firm dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Long-arm statute does not reach firm that does not actively solicit business or maintain business relations in the state. Availability of service via Internet alone not enough to create jurisdiction.
(Updated 3-11-98)
Web Site Alone Not Sufficient to Invoke Long-Arm Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
Florida company that offered commercial services via a passive web page allegedly infringed on the trademark of an Arizona company that used the same name. Appeals court upheld Arizona district court decision to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
(Updated 1-16-98)
AOL Not Liable for Defamatory Message Posted by Anonymous Party
Briefed Case
Victim of malicious anonymous notice posted on AOL cannot sue the online service provider under the Communications Decency Act, which holds providers immune from liability for statements made by third parties.
(Updated 12-29-97)
Child Porn Distributed in Chat Room Not Subject to Right of Privacy
Briefed Case
Defendant's motion to suppress evidence of child pornography he distributed to members of an on-line chat room denied. FBI agent, who observed chat room proceedings, but did not participate, could collect evidence of illegal activity.
(Updated 12-29-97)
Internet Service Provider Could Be Liable for Contributory Infringement of Program
Briefed Case
Owner of copyrighted clip art that was distributed by a Web Page owner could not sue Internet server for direct or vicarious infringement, but could for contributory infringement to determine if it was aware of the infringement.
(Updated 12-29-97)
Numerical Codes Related to Telecommunication Operations Not Copyrightable
Briefed Case
Producer of call controllers, devices that automate certain telephone features, cannot claim copyright protection over the digit sequence assigned to operational functions because they are methods of operation and are not original expression.
(Updated 11-14-97)
Georgia Enjoined from Enforcing Statute Restricting Certain Classes of Internet Transmissions
Briefed Case
Georgia criminal statute imposed a restriction on anonymous electronic information transfers, and from using a trademark or other protected symbol without approval. A challenge to the statute won preliminary injunction against its enforcement due to likelihood of success of challenge to the wide coverage of the speech restriction.
(Updated 10-15-97)
Internet Advertisers Subject to Personal Jurisdiction
Briefed Case
In a case of first impression, a Minnesota appeals court held that a Nevada provider of an Internet gambling service was subject to personal jurisdiction in Minnesota in an action by the state for false advertising and consumer fraud.
(Updated 10-15-97)
Singing the Blues at The Blue Note
Briefed Case
Owners of The Blue Note (trademarked) cabaret in New York sued the owner of The Blue Note cabaret in Columbia, Missouri, in federal court in New York for infringement. Court of Appeals upheld dismissal of the case for lack of personal jurisdiction in New York. Operation of the Columbia club, and its Web site, did not create sufficient evidence of intent to do business in New York.
(Updated 10-15-97)
Digital Signatures
Briefed Case
The American Bar Association Information Security Committee issued Digital Signature Guidelines in 1996. The purpose is to "establish a safe harbor-a secure, computer- based signature equivalent-which will
  1. minimize the incidence of electronic forgeries,
  2. enable and foster the reliable authentication of documents in computer form,
  3. facilitate commerce by means of computerized communications, and
  4. give legal effect to the general import of the technical standards for authentication of computerized messages."
The ABA recommended the existing protocol of a public key and private key cryptography system with third party certificate authorities.
(Updated 10-15-97)
Employee E-Mail
Briefed Case
Employees may send personal e-mails at work just as they have personal phone conversations. California courts have held that employers have the right to monitor employee e-mail. A federal court held that an employee who was fired for the contents of an e-mail he sent on a company computer had no grounds for suit for wrongful termination.
(Updated 10-15-97)
Infringement on the Internet
Briefed Case
Frena operated a bulletin board on which subscribers could upload and download copies of photos from Playboy magazine. MAPHIA posted unauthorized Sega games. In both cases, the courts granted summary judgments against the web site operators.
(Updated 10-15-97)

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