In Perfect 10, Inc. v. CCBill, et al., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit clarified persistent ambiguities about how a portion of the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) applies to state law. Specifically, Section 230, which has been a defense for Internet service providers, bloggers and Web publishers, broadly immunizes providers of an "interactive computer service" from liability for content that others post. The 9th Circuit concluded that § 230 can also shield service providers from liability when they are confronted with allegations that their users violated state law (such as right of publicity and trademark statutes). Disputes involving federal copyright and criminal laws, however, remain exempt from such immunity.
The opinion also addresses the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), including the provision of non-liability of Web hosts for the content their users post, as long as they take down the offending content promptly upon being notified by the copyright holder and meet a number of other standards (e.g., not receiving "direct financial benefit" from infringing content). The court clarified that providers do not have to actively police their systems for infringement. The DMCA requires the complainant sending so-called takedown notices to include specific information in their requests to service providers, such as identifying the infringing content and certifying, under penalty of perjury, that the person sending the notice is "authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed." The court concluded that service providers are not obligated to comply with requests that fall short of those standards and expressed concern about First Amendment free-speech violations that could occur if a provider removes content that doesn't actually infringe on copyrights.