Articles Posted in Communications Law

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CenturyLink filed suit against Sprint for damages resulting from Sprint's refusal to pay $8.7 million in access charges. Sprint counterclaimed, seeking a declaration that it was not required to pay CenturyLink the higher statutory "tariff" rates under federal and state laws. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that Sprint was required to pay CenturyLink the challenged tariff-rate access charges. In this case, the district court did not clearly err in finding Sprint was operating as an interexchange carrier in providing its VoIP-to-traditional-format transfer service, rather than as an information-service provider. Therefore, Sprint was obligated to pay for the federal tariff rates billed by CenturyLink. The court noted that, because Sprint failed to raise preemption on appeal, the state law tariffs could not be challenged here. The court also affirmed the district court's conclusion that Sprint engaged in unjust and unreasonable practices when it retroactively clawed-back funds by not paying charges it undisputedly owed. View "CenturyTel of Chatham, LLC v. Sprint Communications Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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This case arose from a New York Times article about Senator Rand Paul, which briefly quotes Walter Block, an economics professor. Block filed suit against defendants asserting claims for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. Although Block does not dispute that he made the statements at issue, he argues that the article takes the statements so far out of context as to make them untrue and defamatory. The district court granted a special motion to strike under Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 971 (anti-SLAPP law), dismissed the complaint, and awarded defendants attorney's fees. In Lozovyy v. Kurtz, the court interpreted Louisiana law and concluded that “the Louisiana Supreme Court would recognize that Article 971’s ‘probability of success’ standard does not permit courts to weigh evidence, assess credibility, or resolve disputed issues of material fact.” Because the district court lacked the benefit of the court's recent guidance in Lozovyy, the court vacated and remanded for the district court to apply the standard. On remand, the district court should consider whether Block has established a genuine dispute of material fact on each element of his claims. View "Block v. New York Times Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against DISH for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, because DISH called plaintiff's cell phone 15 times to collect an unpaid balance. The district court granted partial summary judgment sustaining plaintiff's claims in regards to seven of the calls. The remaining calls were later settled. Concluding that the court has jurisdiction over the appeal, the court held that making a call in which a prerecorded voice might, but does not, play is not a violation of the TCPA. Instead, the prerecorded voice must “speak” during the call. DISH proferred that calls 2 through 5 did not result in a prerecorded voice being used because no prerecorded voice was played as these calls were not met by a positive voice. DISH conceded that phone calls number 1, 6, and 7 created TCPA liability. The court concluded that the district court erred in granting partial summary judgment to plaintiff for the seven calls where summary judgment should be granted to DISH on four of the seven calls and DISH conceded liability as to the remaining three calls. View "Ybarra v. Dish Network, L.L.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Communications Law

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This case involved the rights to broadcast the Floyd "Money" Mayweather, Jr. v. Ricky Watton WBC Welterweight Championship Fight. On appeal, defendants challenged summary judgment in favor of J&J on its Federal Communication Act (FCA) claims pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 553 & 605. J&J alleged that defendants violated sections 553 and 605 by receiving and displaying the fight without first paying a licensing fee to J&J. The court concluded that J&J failed to meet its summary judgment burden under section 553 where there was at least a dispute of material fact as to whether defendants fell into the "safe harbor," that precluded the imposition of liability on the majority of cable recipients - customers of cable providers. This exclusion constrained the reach of the statute by exempting from liability those individuals who receive authorization from a cable operator. The court joined the majority of circuits in holding that section 605 does not encompass the conduct presented here: the receipt or interception of communications by wire from a cable system. The court concluded that the plain language of the statute compelled this interpretation. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Mandell Family Ventures L.L.C., et al." on Justia Law

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The Government filed three applications under section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. 2701-2712, seeking evidence relevant to three separate criminal investigations. At issue on appeal was whether court orders authorized by the Act to compel cell phone service providers to produce the historical cell site information of their subscribers were per se unconstitutional. The court concluded that cell site data are business records and should be analyzed under that line of Supreme Court precedent; because the magistrate judge and district court treated the data as tracking information, they applied the wrong legal standard; using the proper framework, the Act's authorization of section 2703(d) orders for historical cell site information if an application meets the lesser "specific and articulable facts" standard, rather than the Fourth Amendment probable cause standard, was not per se unconstitutional; and as long as the Government met the statutory requirements, the Act did not give the magistrate judge discretion to deny the Government's application for such an order. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to grant the applications. View "In re: Application of the U.S. for Historical Cell Site Data" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff contended that the district court's interpretation of the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. 2701, was erroneous. Plaintiff alleged that the statute applied and protected all text and data stored on her personal cell phone which defendants accessed without plaintiff's permission. The Act prohibited accessing without authorization a facility through which an electronic communications service was provided and thereby obtain access to electronic communication while it was in electronic storage. The court affirmed the judgment and held that the text messages and photos stored on plaintiff's cell phone were not in "electronic storage" as defined by the Act and were thus outside the scope of the statute. The court also held that the district court did not err in denying plaintiff's motion to recuse the district court judge. View "Garcia v. City of Laredo, Texas, et al" on Justia Law

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Defendants contested a summary judgment holding that the Mississippi Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act (ASA), Miss. Code Ann. 77-3-805, violated the Commerce Clause. Plaintiffs provide nationwide third-party spoofing services to individuals and entities. In light of the carefully-drafted language in section 227(e)(1) of the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 (TCIA), 47 U.S.C. 227(e)(1), and legislative history, and in spite of the presumption against preemption that attached to a state's exercise of its police power, there was an inherent federal objective in the TCIA to protect non-harmful spoofing. The ASA's proscription of non-harmful spoofing frustrated this federal objective and was, therefore, conflict preempted. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Teltech Systems, Inc., et al v. Bryant, et al" on Justia Law

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This case involved an interlocutory appeal from an order granting plaintiffs' motion for class certification where the certified class putatively consisted of various governmental entities within the State of Louisiana whose representatives entered into contracts with defendants for cellular telephone service. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants engaged in deceptive billing practices that constituted a breach of contract and violated the state's unfair trade and consumer protection laws. The court agreed with defendants that the district court abused its discretion when it certified plaintiffs' class because, in doing so, it effectively certified an "opt in" class, which was impermissible under Rule 23. Accordingly, the court reversed and vacated, remanding for further proceedings. View "Ackal, et al v. Centennial Beauregard Cellular, et al" on Justia Law

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An FCC investigation concluded that Jerry and Deborah Stevens operated an unlicensed FM radio station from their Austin, Texas residence in violation of section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC issued a forfeiture order in the amount of $10,000. Thereafter, the government brought an action to enforce the forfeiture in district court pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 504(a). The Stevenses moved to dismiss the enforcement action, arguing that the FCC lacked jurisdiction to regulate intrastate broadcasts and that section 301 did not apply to radio broadcasts. The district court denied the motion, determining it did not have jurisdiction to consider legal challenges to the validity of an FCC forfeiture order in a section 504(a) enforcement action. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court correctly determined it lacked jurisdiction to consider the Stevenses' legal defenses in the government's action to enforce the forfeiture order, as the Stevens failed to raise legal challenges to the validity of the order in a timely petition for review in the appropriate court of appeals. View "United States v. Stevens" on Justia Law

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Local telephone companies initiated twenty separate suits against Halo before ten state public utility commissions (PUCs) and Halo filed for bankruptcy as a result of this collective action. The telephone companies requested that the bankruptcy court determine that the various PUC actions were not subject to the automatic stay provided by the Bankruptcy Code at 11 U.S.C. 362(a), because they were excepted under section 362(b)(4), or that the bankruptcy court modify the automatic stay for cause, pursuant to section 362(d)(1). The court agreed with the bankruptcy court's holding that the exception to the automatic stay in section 362(b)(4) applied to the state commission proceedings, allowing the telephone companies to proceed with their litigation in the PUCs, but holding that the state adjudicative bodies could not issue any ruling or order to liquidate the amount of any claim against Halo, and that the bodies could not take any action that affected the debtor-creditor relationship between Halo and any creditor or potential creditor. View "Halo Wireless, Inc. v. Alenco Communications, Inc., et al." on Justia Law