Internet Law

California “Yelp” Bill, Guarantees Right to Post (Non-Defamatory) Reviews

September 19, 2014

Imagine this. You go to a new dentist and, before she will take you as a patient she requires you to sign an agreement that you won’t post negative reviews of her on the Internet. You go to book a wedding reception at a restaurant and before they will book your reception they ask you to sign a similar document. Even worse, you must agree that if you do post a negative review, you will owe the restaurant a $500 fine. The Internet has been full of stories of this sort, but now one state — California — has put a stop to it. And, as is sometimes said when it comes to new laws, as California goes, so goes the country. A bill signed into law in California on September 9, 2014, popularly referred to as the “Yelp” bill, prohibits the use of “non-disparagement” clauses in consumer contracts. The law takes effect on January 1, 2015.  Under the new law a “contract or proposed contract for the sale or lease of consumer goods or services may not include a provision waiving the consumer’s right to make any statement regarding the seller or lessor or its employees or agents, or concerning the goods or services.” It will also be “unlawful to threaten or to seek to enforce” such a provision, or to “otherwise penalize” a consumer for making any such statement. The law…

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Sixth Circuit Finds Trip Advisor’s “Dirtiest Hotel” Ranking Is Not Defamatory

August 30, 2012

I guess the owners of the Grand Resort Hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee have never heard of the Streisland Effect.  Their attempt to sue Trip Advisor for defamation based on the hotel’s inclusion in Trip Advisor’s annual “Dirtiest Hotels” list was dismissed by the federal district court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.  While facts can be defamatory, opinions can not. The court concluded that no “reasonable person could believe that TripAdvisor’s article reflected anything more than the opinions of TripAdvisor’s millions of online users.” Professor Eric Goldman discusses this case in more detail here. Seaton v. TripAdvisor, LLC

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Creative Commons Celebrates Its Sixth Anniversary

December 20, 2008

My partners Andy Updegrove, Peter Moldave and I attended this celebration of the sixth anniversary of Creative Commons at Harvard the evening of Friday, December 13, 2008. We could have waited a few days and watched the event on YouTube, but then we would have missed the cold weather, the greatest ice storm in modern Massachusetts history, the difficult parking and, well …. It was actually a great deal of fun, and looking around the room at the 150 or so people that attended there appeared to be relatively few lawyers, a fact that made us feel superior, as if we were really part of the Harvard cognoscenti, which of course we aren’t. (How could we tell there weren’t many lawyers there? – the number of people who had that useless, predatory look common to lawyers was minimal.) Speakers were: Jonathan Zittrain, moderator, panelists James Boyle, Lawrence Lessig and Molly S. Van Houweling, and Special Guests Elena Kagan and Charles Nesson.

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California Appeals Court Decision in Apple v. Does

June 2, 2006

Internet Law. Here is a [link] to the May 26, 2006, California Appeals Court decision quashing a subpoena in order to protect the sources of several online journalists. To summarize, from the Court’s holding: (1) the subpoena to the email service provider cannot be enforced consistent with the plain terms of the federal Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C.

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