United States: Defend Trade Secrets Act Claims Subject To CDA Section 230 Immunity

In what is one of the most recent attempts to circumvent the immunity provided in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act ("CDA" or "CDA Section 230"), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts made it clear that claims brought under the Defend Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 1836, et seq.) ("DTSA") are not exempt from the scope of CDA immunity. In Craft Beer Stellar, LLC v. Glassdoor, Inc., No. 18-10510, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 178960 (D. Mass. Oct. 17, 2018)), the district court found that, as stated in the DTSA itself, the DTSA is not an "intellectual property" law, and is therefore not excluded from the scope of the immunity provisions that protect online service providers from being treated as a publisher or distributor of third-party content. The ruling is a victory for online providers, affirming a robust interpretation of CDA immunity and representing what is likely the first judicial view on how federal trade secret claims should be treated under CDA Section 230. 

Plaintiff, Craft Beer Stellar, LLC, which owns and franchises craft beer stores, asserted a federal trade secret misappropriation claim under the DTSA and related state claims against defendant, Glassdoor, Inc. ("Glassdoor"). Plaintiff's claims were based on negative reviews posted by employees of a certain Craft Beer Cellar franchise on Glassdoor's review website. Glassdoor operates a site where users can anonymously post comments about their employers.  Franchise employees posted several negative reviews of business practices and company leadership on the website, with many of the reviews mentioning one of the co-founders by name. After the co-founder emailed Glassdoor to complain about the post, the website removed it for violating its community guidelines, but the user subsequently re-posted the review to be compliant with the guidelines. Plaintiff claimed that, in addition to defamatory content, the posts included confidential trade secrets relating to the business.

Plaintiff asserted two arguments in an effort to bypass Glassdoor's CDA immunity for publishing user-generated content. First, the plaintiff argued that the decision to remove the review, coupled with permitting an updated review to be re-posted, were material decisions that modified the review's content and made Glassdoor an author of the post. As an author, plaintiff argued that Glassdoor was outside the scope of the immunity granted to interactive computer services (we have previously written about how authorship is a standard of being a creator or developer of the content at issue). In this case, the judge dismissed plaintiff's state law claims and sided with Glassdoor, stating that its decision to remove the original post and allow a revised version to be posted constituted a traditional editorial function covered by CDA Section 230.

The second way that the plaintiff tried to avoid the CDA was by asserting a federal trade secret claim and framing the DTSA as a "law pertaining to intellectual property" that would make it exempt from immunity. Subsection (e)(2) of CDA Section 230 (47 U.S.C. 230(e)(2)) states that the statute shall not limit or expand laws pertaining to intellectual property, putting intellectual property laws outside the scope of immunity. But what is an "intellectual property" law?  Questions have arisen in the past surrounding whether state right of publicity laws are such laws, and the plaintiff argued that trade secrets, traditionally lumped under IP, should be exempt from CDA immunity. However, the DTSA expressly states in section 2(g) that it "shall not be construed to be a law pertaining to intellectual property for purposes of any other Act of Congress." The District Court in Craft Beer found this dispositive:

"Because Congress has clearly dictated that the DTSA should not be construed to be a law 'pertaining to intellectual property' for the purposes of any other Act of Congress, the DTSA is clearly not such a law for the purposes of § 230(e)(2). The DTSA claim is thus subject to the immunity provisions of § 230, and accordingly that claim will be dismissed."

We have previously detailed other ways plaintiffs have tried to hold online service providers liable by circumventing CDA Section 230 immunity, most recently in California where plaintiffs strategically failed to name the online service provider as a party. The attempt in Craft Beer may be the first time a party has tried to fit the DTSA into the intellectual property exception found in subsection (2)(e), though it appears Congress foresaw this issue and included statutory language to address it. The district court wasted little ink in interpreting the DTSA as being subject to the broad immunity offered to online service providers. It should be noted that the plaintiff's Massachusetts state misappropriation of trade secrets claim was also dismissed because the plaintiff could not show that the parties shared a confidential relationship. Because the state trade secret law claim was dismissed on the merits, the court did not address whether Section 230 would have provided immunity for such claims.

The Craft Beer ruling is a solid victory for websites that collect and manage user-generated content. This ruling is yet another decision that affirms the broad immunity afforded to interactive computer services under CDA Section 230.

Defend Trade Secrets Act Claims Subject To CDA Section 230 Immunity

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions