Online Retailer Isn’t Liable for User Comments–Cornelius v. DeLuca

By Eric Goldman

Cornelius v. DeLuca, 2009 WL 2568044 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 18, 2009)

DeLuca runs bodybuilding.com, a fitness website and online retailer. The plaintiffs sell dietary supplements (“syntrax,” whatever that is). The plaintiffs allege that their competitors posted shill reviews to bodybuilding.com designed to harm the plaintiffs’ business. The plaintiffs sued both bodybuilding.com and the putative shillers. This ruling deals only with bodybuilding.com’s liability.

As you know, these facts set up an easy defense win per 47 USC 230. To get around 230, the plaintiffs allege that bodybuilding.com was in a “conspiracy” relationship with the shillers. I know conspiracy has been raised as a 230 bypass before, but I’m struggling to remember another case that decisively addressed the argument. This court tackles the issue squarely and efficiently dismisses the claim (without any citations). The only thing that matters to the court is whether the defendants posted the allegedly tortious content. Because the answer is no, case dismissed.

Some other 47 USC 230 cases that have reached analogous results:

* Joyner v. Lazzareschi: conspiracy argued but not alleged

* Higher Balance v. Quantum Future Group: no “alter ego” liability

* Cisneros v. Yahoo: no “aiding and abetting” liability. Accord: Goddard v. Google

* Best Western v. Furber: no liability for co-website operator activities

A tip to plaintiffs’ lawyers: STOP TRYING TO PLEAD AROUND 47 USC 230!

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