poster=”http://v.politico.com/images/1155968404/201712/3692/1155968404_5543159979001_5543158860001-vs.jpg?pubId=1155968404″ true Meme Stock Suit Against Robinhood Is Dismissed, but Others Loom
A long-awaited appeals court ruling handed down Friday confirms that Twitter is not required to identify users who knowingly distributed content that libeled previous companies. But in the wake of the finding, there are some concerns about the inevitable cascade of similar suits.
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that Twitter was not obligated to intervene when companies on its site felt they were being libeled, or unfairly disparaged. The lack of involvement doesn’t mean the service can’t take similar action itself, if necessary.
Story Continued Below
“It’s pretty disappointing. What we’re seeing is a somewhat flawed decision with no suggestion that the board could have looked more carefully at the facts, which is really what the law says,” said Jeremy Spiegel, an attorney with Buck Consultants and a member of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s Advisory Committee.
With Robinhood recently launching plans to open an internet bank, Spiegel said that “there will be more and more issues with people who now advertise or act as lenders.”
Twitter declined to comment.
The move affects only Tweets published by accounts, not tweets written on a computer or on the iPhone and Google mobile apps that users can access through Twitter. Robinhood CEO Baiju Bhatt filed a complaint against the platform in the Southern District of New York.
Bhatt and others hope to bring more cases against Twitter and other platforms, Spiegel said.
A number of people who have joined the Robinhood lawsuit could run afoul of other laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or the fact that they’ve picked a target of egregious misconduct that could not be impugned if taken up with Twitter as a matter of law.
“I would expect that we would see more litigation for all kinds of cases because there are too many people who have decided to tangle with ‘the hipster girls at the rich man’s club,'” Spiegel said.
The case was heard in July, but the case was remanded to the New York panel following a U.S. District Court ruling earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs has been in a long-running copyright dispute with former clients.
Not all cases are bound to go to a court. Some may not even be filed in the first place, as by design, Twitter may have proven to be a rough target. A few particularly litigious users have ramped up demands over the past several years, disrupting for example Twitter commerce or launch events for tech startups that have become integral to the world of social media.
Twitter has acknowledged it has had to filter for spam and racism while suppressing some legitimate tweets — some of which are illegal by any official count — but has also defended itself from the occasional unwarranted criticism and, more recently, snarky Yelp reviews.
“In the end, Twitter is a platform for expressive speech, not an arbiter of who speaks and who doesn’t,” Twitter said in a statement in response to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decision. “In cases in which a marketplace is ‘heartful’ of market participants, like one for cryptocurrencies, it may be appropriate for us to have some degree of market involvement, or as elsewhere, to simply enforce the law.”
But industry observers, including those who work closely with startups, told POLITICO they’re worried about the cases that are brewing.
Twitter, for example, passed on the chance to take ownership of the words “jewish money” in a song penned by artist Cameron Thomason that has been played on its platform, even though they are registered trademarks for Jewish people and brands.
Similar to the investment community, people within and outside the tech sector look to the company as a way to give insights into trends, opportunities and disappointments. Facebook also has faced significant criticism for missing out on some major opportunities, but has found success in these growing areas of the market.