Engine Files Amicus Brief in HomeAway vs. City of Santa Monica

This week, Engine filed an amicus brief in HomeAway.com Inc. and Airbnb Inc. vs. City of Santa Monica calling for the full Ninth Circuit to rehear whether Santa Monica, California can force home-sharing companies to police third-party content.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act prevents courts from treating online platforms as publishers of user-generated content, and ensures that online sites do not face ruinous legal liability over content they do not create and cannot perfectly moderate. The city’s ordinance would have a chilling effect on companies—particularly small internet platforms—by shifting the burden of enforcing local laws from the city to home-sharing platforms. Requiring companies to police users’ postings on the city’s behalf.

Last month, the Ninth Circuit upheld Santa Monica’s ordinance. The panel’s decision, however, conflicts with its previous rulings in favor of critical Section 230 protections, and unreasonably favors ad-supported platforms at the expense of startup sites dependent upon transactions between users.

As Engine notes in its brief, the panel’s decision “conflicts with the text of Section 230, Ninth Circuit precedent, and the precedent in other circuits by allowing state and local government to regulate user-generated content online.”

Many thanks to Professor Phil Malone, Claire Santiago, and George Brown with the Stanford Law School Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic for their great work on the brief.

Read the full brief here.