Internet search providers and websites that have come to rely on the Communications Decency Act (CDA) to protect against content-related lawsuits should be feeling a little discomfort right now. A federal district court in California, in CYBERsitter, LLC v. Google Inc., has rejected Google Inc.’s motion to dismiss a variety of state law claims based on CDA immunity. As we have previously reported, courts have interpreted Section 230(c)(1) of the CDA as providing immunity for websites that display third-party content, as long as the websites do not contribute to the creation or development of the offending content. In CYBERsitter, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California provided little reasoning behind its decision to allow the claims to proceed, other than to state that it was “too early” in the process to determine whether Google was entitled to CDA immunity against claims arising from its sale of trademarked terms for use in advertisements as part of its AdWords service. But the point of immunity, of course, is not just to avoid judgment, but also the cost and burden of trial. Internet companies should be concerned about the prospect of being forced to go to trial even where CDA immunity would seem clearly to apply.
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Google’s CDA immunity armor pierced
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