YouTube Gets Easy Section 230 Win–Gavra v Google

By Eric Goldman

Gavra v. Google Inc., 2013 WL 3788241 (N.D. Cal. July 17, 2013). The complaint.

I [heart] easy 47 USC 230 cases. Here, a Romanian lawyer felt 13 YouTube clips, posted by an ex-client, defamed her. After sending an unsuccessful takedown notice to YouTube and initiating an unresolved prosecution in Romania, Gavra sued Google “for invasion of privacy, defamation, and ‘blackmail/extortion,’ arising from Google’s continuing distribution of the videos even after Gavra provided notice.”

Gavra retreads some tired arguments that have been losers for a decade-plus. Gavra argued she wasn’t suing YouTube for “publication” but for failing to remove the clips after getting a takedown notice. The Ninth Circuit unambiguously rejected this argument in the Barnes v. Yahoo case. Gavra also tried the guffaw-inducing argument that she is suing YouTube for distribution, not publication. That argument died in 1997 in the Zeran case and hasn’t succeeded since. Citing, Judge Grewal says:

Section 230 of the CDA was intended “to protect websites against the evil of liability for failure to remove offensive content.” Such conduct is exactly the type of activity underlying Plaintiffs’ negligence and defamation claims.

Gavra’s extortion claim also goes nowhere:

Plaintiffs’ extortion claim is simply a relabeled negligence claim, which is in turn another attempt to hold Google liable for publication activity. Google has assumed no affirmative duty to protect Plaintiffs from extortion and to remove the videos, and, even if it had, any such duty would have arisen from its role as a publisher. The CDA protects Google in all these instances.

The State Attorneys General Letter

While it’s heart-warming to see Section 230 work exactly as designed to quickly end an unmeritorious case, as previously anticipated, the State Attorneys General have asked Congress to eviscerate the statute. You can see their letter here and my response (if SSRN is down, try Forbes (1, 2).

I was disappointed, though not surprised, to see California’s attorney general Kamala Harris sign the letter, even though the Internet industry plays a crucial role in the state she purports to represent. I wasn’t surprised because this is just the latest in a series of anti-Silicon Valley moves coming from her office. My vote will be up for grabs during her next election campaign.

I know some of you are thinking that Section 230 will easily survive this challenge, but I am taking nothing for granted. I hope to have a lot more to say about the state AG letter soon. Meanwhile, you can read the coverage at EFF, CDT and Techdirt, and don’t be shy about letting your elected representatives–including the state AG you voted for–how much you value Section 230.