Posting on social media about businesses located in another state could give rise to personal jurisdiction in that state, according to a recent landmark opinion by a sharply divided Montana Supreme Court. In Groo v. Montana Eleventh Judicial District Court, the Court considered whether several Facebook posts made by Melissa Groo, a New York-based wildlife-photography ethicist, concerning Triple D Game Farm, a wildlife-photography farm in Montana, supported personal jurisdiction in an action by Triple D against Groo in Montana state court for tortious interference with contractual relations and prospective economic advantage. In the posts, Groo had tagged individuals and companies doing business with Triple D, three of whom resided in Montana, and encouraged them to cancel their business with the company because of its alleged mistreatment of animals. Four Justices found the posts sufficient to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Groo; three dissented.
Last month, TikTok sued Montana’s attorney general—alleging the state’s recent TikTok ban is unconstitutional and is preempted by federal law.
On May 17, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed a first-of-its-kind law banning TikTok from operating in the state, in order “[t]o protect Montanans’ personal, private, and sensitive data and information from intelligence gathering by the Chinese Communist Party.”
In an unsigned per curiam opinion yesterday in Gonzalez v. Google, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s judgment— which had held that plaintiffs’ complaint was barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – and remanded it. But the Court’s opinion entirely skirted a highly-anticipated issue: whether Section 230 does, in fact, shelter as much activity as courts have held to date.
Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York recently denied a motion to dismiss in a copyright dispute involving the unlicensed “embedding” of a social media video. In doing so, the court explicitly and definitively rejected the Ninth Circuit’s “server rule,” under which the Ninth Circuit held that re-posting of online content does not constitute a separate act of infringement where the infringing copy is stored only on third party servers. Instead, Judge Rakoff held that by re-posting the copyrighted content online, defendants had implicated plaintiffs’ exclusive display right – regardless of whether they created and stored a copy on their own servers. The opinion states that to hold otherwise would be to “make the display right merely a subset of the reproduction right.” Nicklen v. Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., et al.
Parties should think twice before posting potential evidence on social media, as the Plaintiff in Guarisco v. Boh Brothers Construction learned recently. The Eastern District of Louisiana imposed sanctions on Plaintiff for deliberately producing an altered photo, which Plaintiff had previously posted on social media in its unaltered form. Rather than relying on Rule 37(e), which it found was not applicable to the facts, the court exercised its inherent power to issue sanctions for such improper discovery tactics.
This past month, professional networking site LinkedIn Corp., was given more time to file a petition for certiorari challenging a Ninth Circuit finding that hiQ Labs Inc. (“hiQ”), a workforce data analytics startup, did not violate federal hacking laws by “scraping” LinkedIn member profiles without LinkedIn’s permission.
Data scraping, or web scraping, is a method where a computer program extracts data from websites. The data that is extracted is often considered to be human-readable information. The question of who owns data that is scraped from public websites is now at the doorstep of one of the largest technology social media companies in the United States.
Those who thought designating social media posts as “private” would be sufficient to shield them from outsiders—including opposing parties in litigation—had better think again. On February 13, 2018, the New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, unanimously held that the rules generally applicable to discovery in civil actions are just as applicable to “private” social media posts, and that they are therefore subject to disclosure if they are “reasonably calculated to contain evidence ‘material and necessary’ to the litigation.” Forman v. Henkin, New York State Court of Appeals, No. 1 (quoting N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3101(a)).
A ski trip with your fiancé results in a great photo of the two of you on a snow covered mountain; obviously, the picture is destined for your Facebook page. This picture may be used for more than to show off your good time and skiing ability, however, if you’re the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit. In Scott v. United States Postal Service, which concerns a personal injury suit, a Louisiana District Court recently held that while social media is discoverable, discovery requests involving social media must still be tailored to lead to relevant and admissible evidence.