J. Alexander Lawrence

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Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act continues to act as one of the strongest legal protections that social media companies have to avoid being saddled with crippling damage awards based on the misdeeds of their users. The strong protections afforded by Section 230(c) were recently reaffirmed by Judge Caproni of the Southern District of New York, in Herrick v. Grindr. The case involved a dispute between the social networking platform Grindr and an…
In U.S. copyright law circles, one of the hottest topics of debate is the degree to which the fair use doctrine—which allows for certain unauthorized uses of copyrighted works—should protect companies building commercial products and services based on content created by others, especially where such products or services are making transformative uses of such content. This debate is likely to become even more heated in the wake of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ issuance…
The music industry came out on top in one of its first attempts to hold an internet service provider liable for its subscribers’ unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing. The decision, handed down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in a dispute between BMG Rights Management and Cox Communications, outlines the obligations an ISP must fulfill to receive safe harbor protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for a subscriber’s infringement. It also explains when an…
Following a recent decision from the Sixth Circuit, anonymous bloggers and other Internet users who post third-party copyrighted material without authorization have cause for concern. They may be unable to preserve their anonymity. In Signature Management Team, LLC v. John Doe, the majority of a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit established a new “presumption in favor of unmasking anonymous defendants when judgment has been entered for a plaintiff” in…
Following a recent U.S. district court’s ruling, foreign companies operating cloud-based services may find themselves subject to federal long-arm jurisdiction under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4(k)(2), even if they have no physical presence in the United States. In reaching its decision, the court noted that the question was ripe for consideration by the court of appeals; thus, it remains to be seen whether the decision will stand if appealed. In Plixer International, Inc.
Facebook’s four-year battle on behalf of its users, seeking to quash 381 warrants obtained by the New York County District Attorney’s Office, has come to a close. The decision of the New York Court of Appeals—which is New York’s highest court—leaves Facebook users exposed to wide-ranging and largely unchecked inquiries by New York criminal prosecutors into their Facebook accounts. The story begins in July 2013, when the New York Supreme Court—which is the trial court…
Congress enacted the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) nearly two decades ago seeking to balance the needs of two factions: Content creators, who were struggling to protect their intellectual property in the digital age, and fledgling Internet companies, who feared being held liable for the misdeeds of their customers. For the Internet companies, Congress offered relief by creating a number of “safe harbors” shielding such companies from copyright-related damages arising from their customers’ infringing activities.…
Because content posted online can be accessed nearly anywhere, courts regularly face the issue of whether they have personal jurisdiction over a defendant who posted material to the web or a social media site. Recently, one New York federal court held that the mere fact, standing alone, that copyrighted material posted online was accessible in New York did not create a “situs of injury” sufficient to support personal jurisdiction under New York’s long-arm statute. In Pablo
It seems that almost everyone uses social media today. Of course, this means that most every juror is a social media user, and that courts are dealing with the thorny questions that arise out of the proliferation of social media usage among jurors. Like the long-standing practice of warning jurors not to talk about the case with friends and family or to read press reports about the case during the course of trial, courts now…
Attorneys often research adverse parties online to obtain potentially useful—and publicly available—evidence for use in a case. But, as an ethical matter, may an attorney access information available only through an adversary’s private social media account? The New Jersey Supreme Court just considered this question in a professional-misconduct complaint involving “Facebook spying” of a plaintiff by opposing counsel. In a recent ruling, the court held that attorneys who access an opposing party’s private Facebook account…