Consumer Review Website Isn’t Liable for Users’ Copyright Infringement–Ripoff Report v. ComplaintsBoard

By Eric Goldman

Xcentric Ventures, LLC v. Mediolex Ltd., 2012 WL 5269403 (D. Ariz. October 24, 2012). The initial complaint.

This is a long-running and ill-advised lawsuit by Ripoff Report against ComplaintsBoard for allegedly infringing Ripoff Report’s purported copyright in its users’ reviews. Ripoff Report argued that ComplaintsBoard “encouraged and permitted” users to repost infringing reviews from Ripoff Report. This allegation doesn’t survive a motion to dismiss. Ripoff Report asserted that when it would create fictitious companies and reviews, ComplaintsBoard would create a parallel company listing and encouraged its users to review of the fictitious company. The court says that’s not enough to constitute contributory infringement or the requisite supervisory power to constitute vicarious copyright infringement.

Note: the opinion references 512(c) but doesn’t apply it; and it’s not clear from the opinion if ComplaintsBoard qualifies for the safe harbor. I infer it isn’t. I see a 512 agent designation dated May 2012 and stamped “received” September 2012.

The court gives Ripoff Report another chance, but that wouldn’t be a wise move. Ripoff Report has plenty to keep its litigation docket busy, and chasing a foreign competitor to enforce its so-called copyright interests in user reviews seems like an unnecessary digression–especially with such weak legal underpinnings.