Ninth Circuit Rejects Lawsuit Over Hijacked Facebook Account–Long v. Dorset

Long is a book author. He ran a Facebook business page to promote his work. An interloper, using the alias “Tammy Dorset,” gained administrator access to the Facebook page. Once in control of the page, Dorset allegedly posted items that infringed Long’s rights and disseminated a virus. After 8 days, Long convinced Facebook to pull the plug on Dorset, which also removed Dorset’s infringing posts. Long sued Facebook for copyright infringement and negligence for Dorset’s activities.

Copyright. Dorset caused the copying. Long didn’t sufficiently allege volitional conduct by Facebook. Long’s complaints didn’t turn Facebook’s non-action into volition.

Long didn’t allege Facebook’s direct financial benefit from Dorset’s infringement.

With respect to contributory infringement: “Viewing the screenshots in conjunction with the text of Long’s accompanying emails, the list of links to his website that Long also attached (which themselves included a different set of text and images), and Long’s simultaneous request to restore his page administrator status, the Complaint fails to plausibly establish that Facebook actually knew precisely what infringing material was available on Facebook.”

Other Tort Claims. “Long contends that Facebook was negligent in (1) enabling Dorset to access Long’s business page; (2) failing to maintain automated responders that could refer user complaints to appropriate Facebook departments; and (3) failing to promptly remove Dorset’s infringing posts. He also asserts that Facebook aided and abetted Dorset through its inaction.” The court says removing content is something publishers do (cite to Barnes v. Yahoo), so Section 230 applies to those claims. Long sought to take advantage of Section 230’s IP exception, but his tort claims didn’t pertain to IP, and Section 230 would preempt state IP claims anyways (Perfect 10 v. ccBill).

Case Citation: Long v. Dorset, 2021 WL 1590391 (9th Cir. April 23, 2021)