Web Host Wins 230 Defense–Austin v. CrystalTech Web Hosting

By Eric Goldman

Austin v. CrystalTech Web Hosting, 2005 WL 3489249 (Ariz. App. Div. Dec. 22, 2005)

I can’t decide if defense wins under 230 are still worth blogging. Personally, I find them fascinating–I get a certain voyeuristic thrill watching courts trash obviously futile claims. At the same time, there’s a repetitiveness and ennui to these cases. Sorry if I am boring you.

Austin and Daniels run competitive tour companies in Bali. Daniels posted a statement on his website that Bali officials were preparing a criminal case against Austin. Presumably Daniels was hoping that the statement would help potential customers pick Daniels’ business over Austin’s. We encountered a lot of these inter-competitor disputes at Epinions.

Austin sues Daniels and his web host, CrystalTech, for defamation. CrystalTech claims 230, the court agrees per Zeran and its progeny, case over.

Austin tries to overcome 230 using the tired argument that 230 only preempts publisher liability, not distributor liability. In support, Austin cites the intermediate appellate cases in Barrett v. Rosenthal and Grace v. eBay, but both of those cases have been depublished by the California Supreme Court and therefore aren’t citable. Austin also cites to the dicta in Doe v. GTE, which the court rightly ignores. As a result, Austin doesn’t have a solid argument to make. Next case…

Evan Brown’s comments.