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.
- Mike Masnick, Sorry, You Can’t Abuse Copyright Law To Make A Negative Review Disappear, Techdirt (Oct. 17, 2017)
- Pamela Chestek, Not What Copyright Is For, Property, Intangible (Oct. 16, 2017)
- Eric Goldman, First Circuit Rejects Copyright Workaround to Section 230, Technology & Marketing Law Blog (Oct. 12, 2017)
- Alison Frankel, 1st Circuit to decide who owns copyright on Ripoff Report reviews (June 9, 2016)
- Eric Goldman, The Latest Insidious Tactic To Scrub Online Consumer Reviews, Forbes (July 23, 2013)