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Harrison v. Facebook, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

January 17, 2019

FACEBOOK, INC., Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss and/or Transfer filed by Defendant Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) (Doc. 21), Facebook's Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss and/or Transfer (Doc. 22), Plaintiff's Opposition to Second Motion for Extension of Time and to Dismiss or Transfer (Doc. 24), and Facebook's Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss and/or Transfer (Doc. 25). This motion has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for entry of a report and recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and S.D. Ala. Gen LR 72(a)(2)(S). Upon consideration of all relevant filings in this case and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that Defendant Facebook, Inc.'s motion to dismiss be GRANTED.


         On March 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed her pro se complaint against Facebook alleging copyright infringement arising from Facebook's alleged unauthorized public display of copyrighted images and video that were owned and/or registered by her. (Doc. 1 at p. 1). In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges that this Court has personal jurisdiction over Facebook because it “conducts business transactions in Mobile county [sic], Alabama and the causes of action arose, in part, in Mobile county [sic], Alabama.” (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that she is an inventor and entrepreneur with a usual place of business in Mobile, Alabama, and that Facebook is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Menlo Park, California. (Id. at p. 2). Plaintiff further alleges that “Facebook regularly and continuously does business in the State of Alabama” and, “in 2011, it was reported Facebook has 2 million users in the State of Alabama.” (Id. at p. 3).

         In support of her cause of action against Facebook, Plaintiff alleges that she is the sole owner of certain copyrighted images and videos that Plaintiff and her agent placed on Plaintiff's Facebook page or pages. (Id. at pp. 2-3). According to Plaintiff, at some point in or about 2016, she was not able to log on and manage her pages that contained the copyrighted materials and, therefore, in November of 2016, she demanded that Facebook remove all content on her pages. (Id.). However, according to Plaintiff's complaint, “Facebook continues to unlawfully publicly display the unauthorized work.” (Id. at p. 4). Plaintiff alleges that this act constitutes copyright infringement and seeks recovery of monetary damages arising from the alleged infringement. (Id. at pp. 4-6).


         “A plaintiff seeking the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant bears the initial burden of alleging in the complaint sufficient facts to make out a prima facie case of jurisdiction.” United Techs. Corp. v. Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260, 1274 (11th Cir. 2009). “Plaintiff's burden in alleging personal jurisdiction is to plead sufficient material facts to establish the basis for exercise of such jurisdiction.” Future Tech. Today, Inc. v. OSF Healthcare Sys., 218 F.3d 1247, 1249 (11th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). “The district court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true, to the extent they are uncontroverted by the defendant's affidavits.... [W]here the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's affidavits conflict, the district court must construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Madara v. Hall, 916 F.2d 1510, 1514 (11th Cir. 1990). If the defendant puts forth facts by affidavit showing that personal jurisdiction is lacking, the plaintiff is required to produce evidence rebutting the defendant's showing to avoid dismissal. See Polskie Linie Oceaniczne v. Seasafe Transp. A/S, 795 F.2d 968, 972 (11th Cir. 1986).[1] “[T]he plaintiff's burden is to present enough evidence, construed most favorably to [her], to withstand a motion for directed verdict.” Beasley v. Providence Hosp., Civ. A. 18-0004-WS-M, 2018 WL 2994380, *2 (S.D. Ala. June 13, 2018) (citing Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1317 (11th Cir. 2006)).


         As its first ground seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claim, Facebook asserts that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction. “When jurisdiction is based on a federal question arising under a statute that is silent regarding service of process, Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that both assertion of jurisdiction and service of process be determined by state amenability standards, or the long-arm statute.” Cable/Home Communication Corp. v. Network Productions, Inc., 902 F.2d 829, 855 (11th Cir. 1990). Since there is no service of process provision for copyright statutory violations, Rule 4(e) requires the Court to determine this issue under Alabama's long-arm statute. See Id. at 856. The limits of long-arm jurisdiction under Alabama's long-arm statute are coextensive with due process under federal law; therefore, the Court need only consider whether its exercise of personal jurisdiction over Facebook in this case comports with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Vascular Ventures, LLC v. American Vascular Access, LLC, Civ. A. No. 16-00481-KD-B, 2016 WL 7471642, *7 (S.D. Ala. Dec. 7, 2016) (citing Ala. R. Civ. P. 4.2; Frye v. Smith, 67 So.2d 882, 892 (Ala. 2011)).

         The bounds of jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant are in accord with due process if the defendant has “certain minimum contacts with [the State] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). Since International Shoe, two categories of personal jurisdiction have arisen: general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 nn.8-9 (1984).

         “General personal jurisdiction arises ‘when a defendant maintains continuous and systematic contacts with the forum state even when the cause of action has no relation to those contacts.'” HomeBingo Network, Inc. v. Chayevsky, 428 F.Supp.2d 1232, 1241 (S.D. Ala. 2006) (quoting Trintec Indus., Inc. v. Pedre Promotional Prod., Inc., 395 F.3d 1275, 1279 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (citations omitted); Silent Drive, Inc. v. Strong Indus., Inc., 326 F.3d 1194, 1200 (Fed. Cir. 2003)). “A court may assert general jurisdiction over foreign (sister-state or foreign-country) corporations to hear any and all claims against them when their affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011).

         “Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, depends on an ‘affiliatio[n] between the forum and the underlying controversy,' principally, activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State and is therefore subject to the State's regulation.” Id. (citation omitted). “A defendant is constitutionally amenable to a forum's specific jurisdiction if it possesses sufficient minimum contacts with the forum to satisfy due process requirements, and if the forum's exercise of jurisdiction comports with ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Vermeulen v. Renault, U.S.A., Inc., 985 F.2d 1534, 1545 (11th Cir. 1993) (quoting Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316). The non-resident defendant's contacts must meet three criteria to constitute sufficient minimum contacts with the forum:

First, the contacts must be related to the plaintiff's cause of action or have given rise to it. Second, the contacts must involve “some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities with the forum …, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.” Third, the defendant's contacts with the forum must be “such that [the defendant] should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.”

Id. at 1456 (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958); World-WideVolkswagen Corp. v. Woodson,444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980)) (internal ...

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