Facebook’s Trademark Enforcement Effort Against “Faceporn” Hits Jurisdictional Snag — Facebook v. Pedersen

[Post by Venkat Balasubramani]

Facebook, Inc. v. Pedersen, et al., 10-cv-04673 (N.D. Cal.; Nov. 29, 2011)

Facebook sued Pedersen and Retro Invent, who are based in Norway and run the “Faceporn” site. “Faceporn” is a website which features pornographic content and “allows its users to create profiles, join groups, upload photos and video, and conduct live chats.” Facebook served Retro Invent using the Hague Convention, and moved for default judgment.

The court, on its own motion, raises the issue of personal jurisdiction, and orders Facebook to show cause why the lawsuit should not be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Facebook argued in its filings that Faceporn targets a United States audience by using a “.com” address, and by virtue of the fact that Faceporn is an interactive website with 250 users in California and 1000 users in the United States. The court says that these allegations alone are not sufficient to satisfy the standard for personal jurisdiction:

not all material placed on the Internet is, solely by virtue of its universal accessibility, expressly aimed at every state in which it is accessed.

(citing Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Brand Techs., Inc.).

Given the numerous foreign regulators who are taking aim at Facebook, it seems foolhardy for Facebook to argue that use of a TLD along with local registered users confers jurisdiction in a foreign country. Perhaps this argument won’t directly tag Facebook because it is already subject to jurisdiction in every country where it uses the TLD, but it’s not a great precedent for other internet companies. I’m somewhat surprised Facebook made this argument. Clearly, it’s not an internet start-up any more.