Articles Posted in Internet

Raines Feldman privacy and data security lawyers discuss privacy issues implicated by mature content appearing on Snapchat without warning to minors.  Among other issues presented, the team discusses the applicability of the Communications Decency Act, both as a defense and a source of statutory damages for the plaintiffs.  Also, our lawyers analyze the enforceability of Snapchat’s arbitration clause and class action waiver.  Minors may not enter into binding contracts and the plaintiffs are a putative class of minors.  Finally, we discuss special pleading challenges presented by claims under California’s unfair business practices statute.   The statute, California Business and Professions Code section 17200, requires a pecuniary loss in order to advance claims.

The Internet has made it easy to reach a global audience. While Los Angeles residents have a right to express how they feel, they can be held liable for false and reputation-harming statements about others. For instance, you can say or write that you had a negative shopping experience at a California store without enhancing the story with untrue invectives.

A law professor at the University of Michigan made an interesting point about Internet defamation. The authors of online opinions are publishers who must adhere to the same rules as journalists. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Yelp give us a blank page and unlimited viewers that can encourage us to cross the line between negative truths and barbed untruths.

Word of mouth, or today’s Internet version of it, is the prime driver for new business for many small companies. Maintaining a good reputation is critical to staying in business.The opinions of unhappy customers can dissuade product or service buyers and, when enough people perceive the opinions as truth, turn profits into bankruptcy.

The intangible symbols and words of trademarks used by California companies are identifiers. To customers and clients, a trademark represents who you are and what you do. To understand the value of a trademark, see our blog post about a recent trademark dispute over the use of the words “comic con.”

The practice of riding on the shirttails of someone else’s success is as old as business itself. The Internet has just provided a new way to do it. There are people and competitors who plot to profit from business identities through cybersquatting.

That uncomfortable sounding term describes a party who obtains a domain name that looks like or sounds like a trademark belonging to another party. A cybersquatter capitalizes on a trademark by association. In some cases, these rip-off artists simply “squat” on the domain name, until the trademark owner coughs up a considerable sum to buy it.

The quality of a reputation largely depends on an individual’s or company’s actions.However, a reputation damaged by someone else’s comments can come back to bite the author.

Free speech rights give individuals the opportunity to express themselves. False accusations against others, however, can cause unfair reputation damage. A communications professor at a Midwestern university claims a former student crossed the line.

Several websites are devoted to ratings by consumers. Similar sites allow students to chime in on how well they think instructors teach. The ex-student named in the professor’s Internet defamation lawsuit allegedly filled professor review sites, blogs, letters and YouTube with scathing, untrue remarks about her.

Websites often encourage visitors to post comments, which are sometimes more interesting that the content. The question on the minds of a group of powerful technology companies, including California giants Google and Facebook, is whether website owners can be held liable for posts made by third parties. The technology businesses are so concerned about a federal appellate case underway that they’ve entered a legal brief to influence the outcome.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin are among the petitioners who want the court to overturn an Internet defamation ruling. The tech group has no direct connection to the case between a former pro-football cheerleader and gossip website, TheDirty.com. However, since the outcome may impact the companies, the group was permitted to submit a legal brief stating its position.

The ex-cheerleader brought defamation charges against TheDirty.com, after the website featured an anonymous post in 2009, accusing the woman of promiscuity with members of the Cincinnati Bengals football team. A second post claimed the cheerleader’s unfaithful husband transmitted venereal diseases to his wife. A lower court last year sided with Jones and ordered TheDirty.com to pay $338,000.

Some people in the entertainment field — and that’s a considerable list in Los Angeles — feel all publicity is welcome because it attracts the public eye. Accolades and brutal criticism both draw attention. However, public statements also carry the power to topple a personal or business reputation or both.

Does a California business ignore its online detractors or fight back in court? Plaintiffs in Internet defamation cases argue that someone’s words have caused harm that translated into losses. The center of disputes is whether disparaging statements are true or imply truth.

A person dissatisfied with a purchase or service may slam a company on a consumer review site or in a blog. We all have legal protection to express opinions; the truth of an opinion cannot be proven and, therefore, does not qualify as libel or slander. At the same time, individuals and businesses also have the right to defend against false claims.

California businesses outsource website development and maintenance, because owners lack the time or knowledge to do the jobs themselves. A third party may have full control of a client’s online presence, from purchasing domains to the design and content of a website. The strength of a business contract keeps one party from taking advantage of another.

Painted Nail is a salon in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks. The nail business is owned by a former MTV reality show personality, Katie Cazorla of “Jersey Shore.” Cazorla and her record-producer boyfriend made a deal with the Canadian-born owner of Digital Welders.

In a 2012 trade deal, the website design company promised to obtain and create websites for the couple’s business interests. In exchange, Cazorla’s boyfriend agreed to produce demos for the daughter of Digital Welders’ owner. Last summer, the couple also handed over $13,000 to the website designer for maintenance and the work he had done, including the purchase of five domains.

It’s not easy, even for some of the wealthiest Los Angeles residents, to identify with Donald Trump. The man’s fortune is in a financial stratosphere all its own. However, if you own or manage a business, you certainly can understand the importance of winning a domain name dispute.

Donald Trump’s recent court victory probably was more satisfying emotionally than financially. The billionaire scored $32,000 in a cybersquatting countersuit initiated by a 34-year-old domain collector. Trump was upset the man owned four domains containing his trademarked name.

Cybersquatters buy domain names that include or resemble trademarks and often use them as leverage to profit from the trademarks’ owners. Some website owners with cybersquatting intent develop trademark knock-off websites and make money through advertising or sales. Embattled businesses sometimes prefer to purchase the sites rather than incur court costs.

Many online enthusiasts don’t require a consumer review site to express product or service dissatisfaction. Social media sites are filled with random product endorsements and criticisms. Los Angeles consumers should be aware businesses aren’t above filing Internet defamation lawsuits, when they’re unhappy with what you say about them.

Customer satisfaction can generate business revenue. Dissatisfied customers drive revenue away. Web-wide product slams wield influence that can put a company out of business.

What’s fair? According to a jury’s recent decision on a defamation case, a defendant and plaintiff both can be out of bounds.

Pretend, for a moment, that you could invite 1,000 guests to your Los Angeles home for a party. As a good social host, you’d take reasonable measures to prevent anyone from becoming ill from overeating or intoxicated from too much imbibing. With so many guests, it would be hard to monitor everyone.

Even though you’ve met your obligations as a host, it’s likely that a few guests will still create problems for themselves or other guests. Now, insert GoDaddy.com as the web host and reimagine the guests as 55 million individuals and companies that register Internet domains with the global company. Who is to blame when GoDaddy customers harm one another?

A California federal judge upheld a lower court’s decision to throw out a case filed by Malaysian energy giant Petronas against GoDaddy for contributory cybersquatting. GoDaddy registered two websites with names similar to Petronas’ main site. The owner of the infringing sites redirected users to a pornographic site.