Xcentric Ventures LLC

Small Justice LLC v. Xcentric Ventures LLC, 99 F. Supp. 3d 190 (D. Mass. 2015), 873 F.3d 313 (1st Cir. 2017)

Richard Goren, a Massachusetts attorney, sued a commenter on the consumer-advocacy website RipoffReport.com for defamation in state court. Goren won a default judgment against the commenter, and then got creative. He persuaded the state court judge to amend the judgment to assign the copyright for the website posts to Goren — though the Copyright Act forbids any involuntary transfers, and Massachusetts’ civil rules prevent any after-the-fact amendments to default judgments. Armed with the void copyright transfer, Goren then sued Ripoff Report’s operator Xcentric Ventures for infringement in federal court in Massachusetts. He added defamation and related claims to the lawsuit — though the Communications Decency Act forbids claims that treat websites, or other internet service providers, as the “speaker” of user-generated content. Dan Booth, in conjunction with counsel at Jaburg Wilk, defeated the defamation claims on a motion to dismiss and the copyright claims on summary judgment, and won awards of attorney’s fees for defending the case. On appeal, the First Circuit affirmed on all counts.