Section 230 Dodges Another Judicial Bullet

The June 10, 2020 and July 22, 2019 posts on Trending Law Blogs discussed, among other things, how Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. §230 (c)(1) (hereafter “§230”), has come under attack by politicians who seek to remove the §230 immunity that protects internet platforms such as Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and Facebook when they are sued for re-publishing content on their websites which is provided by a third-party.

On March 7, 2022, §230 staved off an attack by a private plaintiff in Texas who challenged Facebook’s §230 protection when the Supreme Court of the United States denied the plaintiff’s petition for certiorari. According to the Petition for Writ of Certiorari, the plaintiff claimed she was sex trafficked as a minor “because Facebook’s products connected her with a sex trafficker.” Facebook asserted it was “completely immune from suit” under §230. After the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Facebook, plaintiff appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to rule on whether §230 provided immunity from suit to internet platforms “in any case arising from the publication of third-party content, regardless of the platform’s own misconduct.”

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Southern District of New York Rejects Ninth Circuit’s Copyright Analysis Regarding Embedded Images

In a recent case, Nicklen v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, rejecting the rationale of a case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2007, denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss a complaint filed by plaintiff who posted a video on Instagram and Facebook only to have defendants embed the video in an online article posted on their websites without having first obtained a license from plaintiff.

The case involved video footage shot by plaintiff, the author and registered owner of a video showing an emaciated polar bear wandering around the Arctic. The plaintiff posted the video to his Instagram and Facebook accounts along with a caption which advised others seeking to use the content commercially to obtain a license to do so. Defendants published an article on their websites about starving polar bears and, using a Facebook and Instagram embedding tool, included the plaintiff’s video in their article without having first obtained a license. Defendants failed to remove the video from their websites after plaintiff sent a takedown notice, leading plaintiff to file a lawsuit which claimed that defendants “infringed his exclusive reproduction, distribution, and display rights” under U.S. copyright law.

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