Ninth Circuit Takes A Narrow View On Personal Jurisdiction Over Website Operators, Setting Up Potential Circuit Split – Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration


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Ninth Circuit Takes A Narrow View On Personal Jurisdiction Over Website Operators, Setting Up Potential Circuit Split


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As we reported in August, courts are increasingly being asked to
decide when website operators are subject to personal
jurisdiction-a potentially vexing problem because websites
generally lack a specific location and can be accessed from almost
anywhere on the globe. In June 2020, the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in UMG Recordings
Inc. 
v. Kurbanov, 963 F.3d 344 (4th Cir.
2020), answered that question by adopting an expansive view of
personal jurisdiction. The court held that certain common web-based
advertising activities subjected a Russia-based website operator to
personal jurisdiction in Virginia. Specifically, the defendant was
alleged to have posted free content on his website, and rather than
profit directly from end-users, sold advertising space on the site
to third-party advertisers. He was then sued in Virginia, a forum
where the website was frequently accessed. If the Fourth
Circuit’s approach were adopted more widely, any website
operator would potentially be subject to personal jurisdiction for
claims in any forum where their website is frequently
accessed. 

On August 17, 2020, however, in AMA Multimedia,
LLC 
v. Wanat, the United States Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit adopted a different approach.
Addressing a similar fact pattern to UMG Recordings,
the court held it could not exercise jurisdiction over a foreign
website operator. 970 F.3d 1201 (9th Cir. 2020).
Although AMA Multimedia determined that UMG
Recordings
was distinguishable, the Ninth Circuit’s
decision creates a potential split among the circuits. Until the
issue is resolved, website operators remain at risk of being forced
to defend lawsuits in any jurisdictions where they have a
substantial number of users. 

Ninth Circuit Takes a Narrow View on Personal
Jurisdiction over Website Operators Setting Up Potential Circuit
Split (002).pdf
(pdf | 92.00 KB )

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