By Mark Verstraete
The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied a motion for preliminary injunction against Aereo, Inc. (“Aereo”), a company that captures television broadcast signals with individualized antennas and streams the broadcasts to paying subscribers. Hearst Stations Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., No. 13-cv-11649, at 3 (D. Mass. October 8, 2013). Hearst Stations Inc. (“Hearst”) claimed that use of Aereo’s technology directly infringes on exclusive rights guaranteed to Hearst as copyright holder under 17 U.S.C §106. In denying the motion, the court assessed the likelihood of Hearst succeeding on the merits and the likelihood of Hearst suffering irreparable damage without injunctive relief (Hearst, No. 13-cv-11649 at 8). The analysis of Hearst’s success on the merits focused predominately on whether Aereo “perform[ed] the copyrighted [audiovisual] work publicly,” a right exclusively reserved for the copyright holder. Id. at 9. The court reasoned that Aereo’s activities did not constitute a “public performance” because Aereo’s manner of transmitting TV signals creates “copies unique to each user and only at the user’s request.” Id. at 11. The court conceded that it was possible that Hearst could experience irreparable harm but concluded that the harm, if it did occur, would most likely materialize after the litigation and that demonstrating the potential for harm does not outweigh Hearst’s failure to show likelihood of success on the merits. Id. at 18. JOLT Digest covered earlier disputes involving Aereo, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit’s affirming the denial of a preliminary injunction against Aereo brought by several broadcast TV networks. ArsTechnica provides further coverage.
Airbnb Responds to Subpoena from New York Attorney General
Airbnb, Inc. (“Airbnb”), a company that provides an online platform for connecting “Hosts” that seek to rent their accommodations to “Guests” seeking accommodations, responded to a subpoena demanding information about 15,000 of its New York Hosts to determine if the Hosts’ practices violated New York laws regulating rental agreements and taxes. Airbnb, Inc. v. Schneiderman, Memorandum of Law in Support of the Verified Petition, at 1 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. October 9, 2013) (Hosted by ArsTechnica). Airbnb contends that the subpoena implicates serious privacy concerns because it is overly broad. Id. at 4. That is, Hosts that are “not subject to the laws” or “are exempt from the tax scheme” may fall within the scope of the requested information. Id. at 2. Airbnb also pushed back on the New York housing laws themselves by claiming that they are inherently vague and thus fail to give fair notice. Id. at 6.
Delaware District Court Dismisses Class Action Suit Against Google Regarding Personally Identifiable Information
A federal judge dismissed a class action suit against Google because the plaintiffs had failed to show “an injury in fact” and thus lacked standing to bring the suit. In Re: Google Inc. Cookie Placement Consumer Privacy Litigation, No. 12-md-02358-SLR (D. Del. October 9, 2013) (Hosted by The Am Law Daily). The claim against Google arose from its practice of embedding advertisements with code that deceives Apple Safari and Internet Explorer into accepting third-party cookies. Id. at 1. The plaintiffs claim that the manipulation of an Internet browser into accepting cookies infringes on their economic interests – constituting an injury in fact – because it provides the defendants with the plaintiffs’ valuable information without paying for it. Id. at 4. The plaintiffs supported the idea that their personal information is economically valuable because it can be sold directly to advertisers. Id. at 5. The court reasoned that, although the plaintiffs demonstrated that personal data has value, they failed to show that their ability to monetize their data “has been diminished or lost by virtue of Google’s previous collection of it.” Id. at 6-7. Thus, the plaintiffs failed to allege an injury-in-fact and lacked Article III standing. TechCrunch contextualizes the decision within the larger Federal Trade Commission investigation.