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Martin Samson, author of the Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions

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Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Unauthorized internet reseller of plaintiff’s products is not guilty of trademark infringement, and does not cause actionable initial interest confusion, by using plaintiff’s trademarks in meta tags of website at which plaintiff’s and its competitors’ products are sold, and in...

Browse-Wrap Agreements - Internet Library of Law and Court Decisions - Updated April 2, 2008

Civ. Act. No. 07-0293 (E.D. Va., March 11, 2008)

Court holds that minors entered into valid ‘click wrap’ agreement with defendant IParadigms LLC (“IParadigms”) by clicking an “I agree” icon which appeared directly below an online Usage Agreement, and indicated their assent to be bound thereby.  Plaintiffs were high school students that were directed by the schools they attended to submit class work to defendant IParadigm’s “Turnitin” website to check for plagiarism.  As part of this submission process, plaintiffs were obligated to assent to the site’s Usage Agreement.  Because the Usage Agreement contained a limitation of liability clause precluding liability to plaintiffs as a result of their use of the Turnitin site, the Court rejected plaintiffs’ copyright infringement claims, which arose out of defendant’s storage of plaintiffs’ class work in a database used to check student homework for plagiarism.

In reaching this result, the Court rejected plaintiffs’ claims that, as minors, they were not bound by the terms of the site’s Usage Agreement.  Because they had accepted the benefits of the agreement – the ability to submit their class work for grade to their respective schools was dependent upon their use of the site – they could not escape the contractual conditions upon which such benefits were rendered.

The Court further held that plaintiffs’ copyright infringement claims failed because defendant had made a permissible fair use of their works.  In reaching this result, the Court relied on the fact that Turnitin’s use of plaintiffs’ school work was highly transformative of the original works, in that it added plaintiffs’ school work to a non-publicly available database used only to check for plagiarism by students.  The Court also rested its holding of fair use on the fact that defendant’s use did not impact the market for plaintiffs’ works, as the copies Turnitin made thereof were not available to the public, but rather maintained in a non-public database.

The Court rejected the counterclaims advanced by defendant iParadigms, including a claim for indemnification as a result of the commencement of this action.  This claim was based on a separate “Usage Policy” found on the Turnitin site.  The Court held that plaintiffs were not bound by this policy, which was not linked or otherwise referenced in the Usage Agreement to which plaintiffs were in fact bound.  There was no evidence that plaintiffs were aware of this separate “usage policy,” which was contained in a link on each page of the Turnitin site.  As a result, and because the parties’ contract stated that it constituted the full agreement between the parties, the plaintiffs’ use of the site was held not to create a valid browse wrap agreement, and the claim for indemnification, predicated on the Usage Policy, was dismissed.

The remaining counterclaims advanced by iParadigms arose out of the use of the site by one of the plaintiffs to submit class work to an institution he did not attend.  These claims for trespass to chattels, and violations of both the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Virginia Computer Crimes Act, failed due to the absence of the requisite damage.

Case No. 3D05-144 (Florida Dist. Crt. App., August 31, 2005)

Plaintiff held bound by Amendment to telephone services contract which obligated plaintiff to arbitrate disputes with the telephone service company, the terms of which Amendment were posted online.  Plaintiff was held bound as a result of her receipt of an invoice that gave her both notice of the Amendment and a location on the Internet at which its terms could be viewed, as well as the opportunity to cancel her contract if she did not wish to be bound thereby.  Plaintiff was held bound despite the fact that she neither read the terms of the Amendment, nor in any way affirmatively indicated her assent to be bound thereby.  Because the Amendment obligated plaintiff to arbitrate her dispute with defendant Sprint, the Florida District Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's grant of defendant's motion to compel arbitration.

No. C04-04825 (JW) (N.D. Ca., April 1, 2005)

Court holds Terms of Use on defendant's websites constitute binding agreements between website operator and website user, where notices on the sites provide that the Terms  will create such an agreement if a user continues to utilize the site, and plaintiff used the sites with both actual knowledge of the Terms, and with imputed knowledge arising out of repeated use of the sites via a "robot."  Court accordingly dismisses plaintiff's declaratory judgment action for improper venue, as the Terms of Use mandated suit be brought in Illinois, and plaintiff commenced suit in California.

359 Ill. App. 3d 976, 835 N.E.2d 113 (Ill App 5 Dist., August 12, 2005) app. denied, 217 Ill. 2d 601, 844 N.E.2d 965 (Ill. 2006)

Reversing the court below, an Illinois intermediate appellate court, applying Texas law, holds purchasers of Dell computers bound by Terms and Conditions of Sale posted and available on Dell’s website at the time of purchase.  Importantly, the court held plaintiffs bound by these terms notwithstanding the fact that they were only available via hyperlink on Dell’s site, and further, that the consumer did not have to affirmatively click an “I accept” icon to indicate his assent to be bound thereby.  The Court held that by purchasing their computers online, plaintiffs entered into an online contract which included the Terms and Conditions, because they were advised on Dell’s website that their purchases were subject thereto.

As a result, the court held plaintiffs bound by the arbitration clause contained in the Terms, which mandated that they arbitrate disputes arising out of the purchase of their computers before the National Arbitration Forum.  In reaching this result, the court rejected plaintiffs’ claims that such a clause was procedurally and substantively unconscionable.

505 F.Supp.2d 755, Civ. No. 06-cv-01726-LTB-CBS (D. Colo., Feb. 13, 2007)

Court allows pro se litigant to proceed with breach of contract claims against the Internet Archive, operator of the Way Back Machine, arising out of the Internet Archive's reproduction and display of historical versions of defendant's website without her consent.  Defendant alleged that such copying of her site constituted an acceptance of the site's terms of use, which require the payment of exorbitant fees for such copying, and even greater amounts as liquidated damages should the copier fail to pay the required copying fees.  The court denied plaintiff's motion to dismiss this claim, holding the counterclaims stated a viable cause of action for breach of contract.  In reaching this result, the court noted it could not determine if the Internet Archive knew at the time it copied defendant's site that that act constituted an acceptance of the site's terms of use.  The court could not resolve that question on the instant motion because the record before it was unclear both as to the manner in which such terms of use were displayed on defendant's site, as well as to whether Internet Archive received any notice thereof, given  its claim to only have accessed the site via a web crawler, and not via an individual.

The Court did dismiss so much of defendant's counterclaims that advanced claims for conversion, civil theft and RICO arising out of the same copying activities.  The Court dismissed the conversion claims both because Internet Archive did not exercise sufficient dominion over defendant's property merely by copying her site and displaying it online, and because Internet Archive removed defendant's site, and thereby ceased exercising any dominion over it, promptly upon her request.

The Internet Archive did not move to dismiss copyright infringement claims defendant asserted arising out of its copying activities, which will also go forward.

109 Cal. App. 4th 583 (Cal. Crt. App., June 9, 2003)

In this mandamus proceeding, California's Court of Appeals, by a two to one vote, holds a party suing as a private Attorney General subject to the same forum selection clause as the consumers it is seeking to protect.  As such consumers would be bound as a result of their use of Net2Phone's website to the provisions of its Terms of Use, so too is their private advocate.  The Court of Appeals accordingly directed that the action Consumer Cause commenced on the consumers' behalf in California be stayed because the Terms of Use contained a forum selection clause which mandated suit in New Jersey.  The Court upheld the forum selection clause notwithstanding the fact that New Jersey, unlike California, does not permit private advocates such as plaintiff to pursue claims on behalf of injured consumers.

356 F.3d 393 (2d Cir. 2004)

Affirming the court below, the Second Circuit holds that is likely to prevail on breach of contract claims arising out of Verio Inc.'s use of data obtained from's Whois database in violation of the database's Terms of Use, which prohibit use of that information for unsolicited advertising.  In reaching this conclusion, the Second Circuit held that's Terms of Use are likely to create a contract between and Verio, because Verio repeatedly used's Whois database with actual knowledge that the Terms provided that such use would constitute assent to be bound by the data use restrictions contained in the Terms.  Notably, the Second Circuit reached this result notwithstanding the fact that Verio did not click an "I Agree" icon indicating its agreement to be so bound.  More importantly, the Court found likely to prevail despite the fact that Verio did not see these Terms until after it had already completed the act - using the Whois database - which purportedly indicated its assent to be bound thereby. 

The Second Circuit also found both that Verio's use of a search robot to gather Whois data likely constituted a trespass to chattels, and that certain of Verio's promotional activities violated the Lanham Act.

As a result, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's issuance of a preliminary injunction, enjoining Verio from either utilizing a search robot to obtain information from's Whois database, or utilizing information obtained from that database to assist in the transmission of mass unsolicited advertising by telephone, direct mail or e-mail.

126 F. Supp. 2d 238 (S.D.N.Y., December 12, 2000) (Jones, J.) aff'd. 356 F.3d 393 (2d Cir. 2004)

Court issues a preliminary injunction enjoining Verio, Inc. from either utilizing a search robot to obtain information from's Whois database, or utilizing information derived from that database for mass unsolicited advertising by telephone, direct mail or electronic mail. Court holds that Verio's actions will likely constitute a breach of plaintiff's Terms of Use, as well as a violation of both the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Lanham Act and a trespass to chattels. In reaching this conclusion, the court holds that's Terms of Use are likely to create a contract between and the users of its Whois database, notwithstanding the fact that these users are not required to click an "I Agree" button indicating their agreement to be so bound.

Civ. Act. No. 3:06-CV-0891-B (N.D. Texas, September 12, 2007)

Finding defendant Boardfirst violated the terms of a browsewrap agreement entered into by its use of plaintiff Southwest Airlines’ website, the Court issued a permanent injunction, enjoining Boardfirst from accessing Southwest Airlines’ website on behalf of its customers to obtain boarding passes.  Southwest Airlines’ passengers engaged Boardfirst to obtain such boarding passes in the hopes of getting better seat assignments on Southwest Airlines flights.  Southwest Airlines has no assigned seating.  Those passengers who are the first to seek boarding passes within the designated time period are awarded “A” boarding passes, which, in turn, allow them to board the plane, and select their seat, first.  In reaching this result, the Court held that Boardfirst had the requisite knowledge that its use of plaintiff’s site would form a valid browsewrap contract by virtue, inter alia, of its receipt of cease and desist letters from Southwest Airlines apprising it of that fact.

The Court denied so much of Southwest Airline’s motion for summary judgment which sought to hold Boardfirst liable for violating of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 1030.  The Court held that issues of fact as to whether Southwest Airlines sustained the injury needed to sustain such a claim precluded an award of summary judgment.  The Court further held that it could not, at this time, determine whether Boardfirst accessed Southwest Airline’s site “without authorization” or in excess of authorization, an additional prerequisite to a CFAA claim.

Finally, the Court found that Boardfirst’s conduct violated Section 33.02 of the Texas Penal code, which makes it an offense to “knowingly access a computer network, or computer system without the effective consent of the owner.”  The Court reserved for trial the issue of whether such violation caused Southwest Airlines recoverable damages.

2000 U.S. Dist. Lexis 4553 (C.D. Ca., March 27, 2000)

The court, in granting defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' breach of contract claim, held that a contract is not created simply by use of a web site on which is posted at the bottom of the site's home page terms and conditions that provide that such use constitutes the user's assent to be bound by the site's Terms and Conditions. The court left open the possibility, however, that use of a web site, coupled with knowledge of Terms and Conditions which declare such use evidence of assent to be bound thereby, could create a binding contract, and granted plaintiffs leave to replead their claim.

The court further held that "hyperlinking [without framing] does not itself involve a violation of the Copyright Act ... since no copying is involved." In addition, the court held that "deep linking by itself (i.e. without confusion of source) does not necessarily involve unfair competition."

The court refused at the outset of a litigation, however, to dismiss plaintiffs' claim that defendant, by deep linking, was tortuously interfering with plaintiffs' prospective business advantage, by depriving them of advertising revenue that might otherwise be achieved if the user were forced first to go to the site's home page (with the necessary increase in traffic that would generate) before he could proceed to an event page.

Lastly, the court held that defendant did not infringe plaintiffs' copyright in their site by extracting data concerning concert and other entertainment events from plaintiffs' web site (such as location, date and time of the event) and presenting it on defendant's web site in its own format. The court further held that plaintiffs could not attempt to recast such a claim into either state law misappropriation, trespass, unfair business practice or unjust enrichment claims, as those claims, to the extent they prohibited conduct permitted under the copyright act, were preempted thereby.

2003 U.S. Dist. Lexis 6483 (C.D. CA., March 7, 2003)

Court holds that a binding agreement can be formed by the use of a web site, without more, if the user has actual knowledge that the site's Terms and Conditions so provide.  As a result, the Court denied defendant's summary judgment motion, which sought dismissal of breach of contract claims arising out of's use of a search robot to obtain information about concerts from plaintiff Ticketmaster's web site.  The Court held that issues of fact as to defendant's knowledge of the site's Terms and Conditions at the time it used plaintiff's site precluded a determination as to the binding nature of such Terms.

The Court did grant so much of's summary judgment motion which sought dismissal of trespass to chattels claims Ticketmaster asserted as a result of such activity.   These claims failed because of the absence of evidence that "the use or utility" of Ticketmaster's computers were being adversely affected by's use of a search robot to gather information from plaintiff's site.

Finally, the Court dismissed several copyright infringement claims brought by Ticketmaster.  These included infringement claims arising out of the temporary copying into the RAM of defendant's computers of data from plaintiff's site, including materials in which plaintiff held a copyright.  These materials were copied as an intermediate step to obtaining, and displaying on's own site, factual information contained therein.  The Court held such copying was a protectable fair use given the only materials retained at the end of the process were the facts -- as to concert locations, dates and times -- contained therein, which facts were not protected by copyright.  Infringement claims arising out of deep linking to interior pages of plaintiff's website were dismissed because, by deep linking into plaintiff's site, was not showing or displaying plaintiff's copyrighted materials (which instead were being displayed by plaintiff itself).  Finally, infringement claims arising out of copying the URLs from such interior pages were dismissed because such URLs did not have sufficient originality to be copyrightable.

507 F.Supp.2d 1096 (C.D. Ca., October 16, 2007)

This case arises out of the use of automated devices by ticket brokers and others to purchase tickets from plaintiff Ticketmaster, and thereby prevent the public from purchasing those tickets themselves. 

In this case, the Court holds that plaintiff Ticketmaster LLC (“Ticketmaster”) is likely to prevail on claims of direct and contributory copyright infringement as a result of defendant RMG Technologies Inc. (“RMG”) distribution of a software application that permits its clients to circumvent’s CAPTCHA access controls, and use Ticketmaster’s  copyrighted website in manners prohibited by the site’s Terms of Use.  Among other things, Ticketmaster prohibits the use of automated devices such as the software application at issue to access Ticketmaster’s site and search for and purchase tickets to events.  Because defendant was likely to be held to have exceeded its license to use Ticketmaster’s copyrighted site, the Court held it was likely to be found guilty of direct copyright infringement, having made unauthorized copies of plaintiff’s site in its computer’s RAM when it viewed the site to create and test its product.

By distributing its software application to third parties, and encouraging them to use it in violation of Ticketmaster’s Terms of Use, the Court held plaintiff was also likely to prevail on claims of contributory copyright infringement.

The Court further held that Ticketmaster was likely to prevail on claims that defendant RMG breached its contract with Ticketmaster by using the site in a manner prohibited by the site’s Terms of Use, which, among other things, prohibited use of the site for commercial purposes, and use of automated devices on the site.  These Terms of Use were likely to be binding on defendant RMG, because it used the site with notice of the Terms, which advised that such use would constitute assent to be bound thereby.

Finally, the Court held that plaintiff Ticketmaster was likely to prevail on claims that defendant, by distributing its software application, violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, because it trafficked in a device designed both to circumvent technological measures that control access to, and protect, a copyrighted work – namely plaintiff’s website.

The Court held that defendant’s conduct was likely to cause plaintiff irreparable injury.  Because it constituted infringement of plaintiff’s copyright, such irreparable harm was presumed.  In addition, plaintiff submitted evidence that the use of automated devices on its site by ticket brokers and others was injuring its reputation and good will with the public, who attributed their inability to obtain tickets to events to misdeeds in which plaintiff and its employees were involved.

As a result, the Court issued a preliminary injunction, enjoined defendant from further trafficking in or using its software application.

Quick Hits

American Airlines, Inc. v. Farechase, Inc.
Cause No. 067-194022-02 (Texas, 67th Dist., Mar. 8, 2003)

Court holds American Airlines likely to succeed on claims that defendant Farechase breached the terms of use governing by scrapping the site for data, including discount “web fares” and flight schedules, and using the data for unauthorized commercial purposes. While the Court’s decision does not so state, it has been reported elsewhere that the contract between the parties arose out of Farechase’s use of, who’s Terms of Use provide that such use constitutes a consent to be bound by the site’s Terms of Use. These Terms, among other things, prohibit the commercial use of the site or data thereon without American Airline’s consent. The Court further finds American Airlines likely to succeed on claims that this unauthorized use, combined with that of licensees of “Web Automation” software distributed by Farechase that allowed such licensees to also access and obtain the same data from, constituted a trespass to chattels – namely American Airlines computer system. This finding was premised on the damage caused, both in terms of lost capacity of its computer system arising from existing uses of its site by Farechase and its current licensees, as well as by projected use by prospective future licensees to whom Farechase planned to distribute its software.  It was also grounded on the damage American Airlines sustained in undertaking to block Farechase and its licensees from accessing its site. Farechase knew this use was unauthorized because of its receipt of cease and desist notices from American Airlines. As a result, the court enjoined FareChase from accessing, using, or scraping, via its “Web Automation” software or otherwise, or from distributing its “Web Automation” software to third parties.

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Mary Defontes and Nicholas Long v. Dell Computers Corp., et al.
C.A. No. P.C. 03-2636 (R.I. Superior Crt., Jan. 29, 2004).

Court held plaintiffs, purchasers of Dell computers and related service agreements, are not bound by the Terms and Conditions Agreement that accompanied such machines on shipment.  The Court held that a browse-wrap agreement was not created upon the initial ordering of the machines, because the link to the Terms and Conditions Agreement at issue was found “inconspicuously” at the bottom of the web page of Dell’s website at which such products were ordered.  According to the Court “this was not sufficient to put plaintiffs on notice of the terms and conditions of the sale of the computer.  As a result, a browse wrap agreement found on Dell’s webpage cannot bind the parties to the arbitration agreement” found in the Terms and Conditions.

The Court further held that a shrink-wrap agreement was not formed between Dell and the plaintiff purchasers, binding plaintiffs to the Terms and Conditions, notwithstanding the fact that those Terms accompanied the computers on shipment to plaintiffs, and were also sent with acknowledgements of plaintiffs’ orders.  The Court reached this conclusion because the Terms at issue did not give plaintiffs the option to reject them by returning the computer to Dell.  Said the Court:

This Court, employing the same logic, finds that the binding effect of the Terms and Conditions Agreement also hinges on whether a reasonable person would have known that return of the product would serve as rejection of those terms.  Accordingly, this Court finds that Plaintiffs did not “knowingly consent” to the terms and conditions of the agreement because they were not given sufficient notice of the method to reject those terms.  Therefore, Plaintiffs are not bound by the arbitration clause therein. 

Because the plaintiffs were not party to the Terms and Conditions, the court denied Dell’s motion to stay this action and compel plaintiffs to arbitrate their claim that Dell improperly charged tax on both the sale of ancillary services plaintiffs purchased with their Dell computers, as well as associated transportation costs.

Applying Texas law, the Court also held that the arbitration provision found in Dell’s Terms and Conditions was in any event an unenforceable illusory contract.  Thus, the Terms and Conditions provided that “these terms and conditions are subject to change without prior written notice at any time, in Dell’s sole discretion …”.  Because Dell retained such an unfettered right to modify or terminate the contract at any time, the Court held that “the language in the Terms and Conditions Agreement fails to bind Defendants in any genuine way.  Accordingly, this Court finds that the arbitration agreement is illusory and therefore unenforceable.” 

Of note, the court held that the fact that the arbitration provision, if binding, would bar plaintiffs from pursing their claims as a class action was not, by itself, a ground to invalidate such a clause under Texas law or render it unconscionable.

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Joe Douglas v. Talk America Inc.
No. 06-75424 (9th Cir., July 18, 2007)

Ninth Circuit holds that customer is not bound by contractual amendments to service contract posted by long distance company on its website of which customer had no notice.

Talk America undertook to provide phone services to customers previously serviced by AOL.  Thereafter, Talk America attempted to change the terms of its contracts with these customers by including in the parties’ contracts provisions that increased applicable service charges and compelled customers to arbitrate any disputes they may have with the company.  These new amendments also included a class action waiver, and a New York choice of law provision.  These changes were posted on defendant Talk America’s website.  However, according to plaintiff, a former AOL customer who continued to use Talk America’s services after the changeover, he was given no notice of these contractual changes.  He alleged that he had no need to visit Talk America’s site as he had set-up his account so that applicable charges were automatically billed to, and paid by, his credit card.

In these circumstances, the Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff could not be compelled to arbitrate his disputes with Talk America arising out of these contractual revisions, and particularly the rate increases they mandated.  The Ninth Circuit accordingly granted plaintiff’s writ of mandamus, holding that the District Court clearly erred in granting Talk America’s motion to compel arbitration.

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Michael Motise v. America Online, Inc.
04 Civ. 2121 (SCR) (S.D.N.Y., Nov. 30, 2004).

Court holds that an individual who access America Online’s (“AOL”) services via the account of another is not bound by its Terms of Service merely as a result of such use, absent notice that the Terms provide that by such use, he is agreeing to be bound thereby.  The Court stated that “the Second Circuit seems to require that the license terms appear on the screen, in view of the user, for the user to be on notice of them.”  In this case, the user claims that he was able to access AOL’s services via his step-father’s account without either being presented with AOL’s Terms of Service, or being asked to accept them.
The Court further held, however, that by accessing AOL’s service via the account of another, plaintiff became a sublicensee, with no greater rights to use AOL’s service than the actual account holder himself.  As that account holder himself had agreed to be bound to AOL’s Terms of Service when he signed up for its service, plaintiff too was bound by those Terms of Service.

As a result, the Court held that plaintiff was bound by the Forum selection clause contained in AOL’s Terms of Service, and accordingly transferred the case to Virginia, where the clause mandated all disputes be litigated.

Pollstar v. Gigmania Ltd.
170 F. Supp. 2d 974 (E.D. Cal. 2000)

Court denies motion to dismiss, and allows Pollstar to proceed with common law misappropriation and unfair competition claims arising out of Gigmania's alleged copying and reposting on its own website of factual concert listings found on Pollstar's site.  The complaint alleged that this information was "hot news" which is protected against misappropriation if plaintiff can show that it "(i) generates or collects information at some cost or expense (ii) the value of the information is highly time-sensitive; (iii) the defendant's use of information constitutes free-riding on the plaintiff's costly efforts to generate or collect it' (iv) the defendant's use of the information is in direct competition with a product or service offered by the plaintiff; (v) the ability of the other party to free-ride on the efforts of the plaintiff would so reduce the incentive to produce the product or service that its existence or quality would be substantially threatened."

The Court also allowed Pollstar to proceed with claims the Gigmania's conduct breached a browse-wrap license agreement between the parties, which prohibits the acts complained of.  The Contract provides that use of the information found on the site constitutes acceptance of the contract's terms.  Notably, the court allowed this claim to proceed despite the fact that notice of such terms were given "in small gray text on a gray background" which, in turn, contained a link to the actual contract terms, without the usual "underlining" signifying such a link.

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