In an opinion Wednesday, Judge Rakoff allowed the handbag maker Hermés to proceed with a trademark suit against the individual responsible for a series of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) associated with digital images of “faux-fur-covered versions” of Hermés’s “Birkin” handbag. An example of a “MetaBirkin” image is below:


Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: Hermés Can Enforce Its “Birkin” Trademark Against Maker of “MetaBirkin” NFTs

In the long-running defamation case brought by Sarah Palin against the New York Times (see our prior coverage here), Judge Rakoff issued an opinion yesterday explaining his ruling from the bench granting judgment as a matter of law to the Times. The ruling was announced orally to counsel at the close of trial, before the jury returned its verdict. The jury subsequently ruled in the Times’ favor, as well.

The central issue in the case was whether the Times acted with “actual malice” when it issued an editorial erroneously suggesting that the actions of Palin’s political action committee – using “stylized cross hairs” over the districts of several members of Congress in online materials – was responsible for the “political incitement” of Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six people and wounded many others, including Representative Gabby Giffords, in a 2011 mass shooting.

Judge Rakoff found that the author, James Bennet, did not act with actual malice because, among other things, he was so quick to direct that the matter be corrected the morning after the editorial was published:
Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: It Would “Chill Protected Speech” To Hold NY Times Liable for Careless, Quickly-Corrected Editorial About Sarah Palin

In an important copyright ruling today, Judge Rakoff ruled that “embedding” material online — in this case, a news organization embedding in an article a video of a polar bear that the plaintiff posted on Instagram — could violate the copyright laws. He rejected the “server rule” by which there could only be infringement in cases where the defendant makes a copy of the image or video to display from its own server.  Under the server rule, merely embedding the material (essentially, displaying the material via the original source) cannot be infringement.

Judge Rakoff found that the server rule was “contrary to the text and legislative history of the Copyright Act”:
Continue Reading Judge Rakoff Finds that “Embedding” Photos and Videos Online Can Infringe Copyrights, Rejecting “Server Rule”

In an opinion today in the long-running defamation case brought by Sarah Palin against the New York Times (see our coverage here), Judge Rakoff ruled that an expansion of New York’s anti-SLAPP law last month was retroactive, and hence was governing in the case.

Sate anti-SLAPP laws generally give special protections to defendants sued for exercising free speech rights, often by allowing for early dispositive motions, fee-shifting, and heightened standards of proof. New York’s anti-SLAPP law until recently applied only to cases involving public applications or permits, but a statute passed in November expanded the law – including the requirement of proving actual malice by clear and convincing evidence – to reach any claim arising from speech on matters of public interest.

Judge Rakoff concluded that the new law applied to case at hand because, under New York law, “remedial” legislation is given retroactive effect:
Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: New York’s Expanded “anti-SLAPP” Law Is Retroactive

On Friday, Judge Rakoff denied cross-motions for summary judgment in Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against the New York Times. (See our earlier coverage here.) Palin argued that the “actual malice” standard for defamatory statements against public figures was no longer good law or did not apply to this case, while the Times argued that no reasonable jury could find that the allegedly defamatory statements were published with actual malice. The case will proceed to trial next Februrary.

Continue Reading Judge Rakoff Clears Sarah Palin’s Defamation Lawsuit Against NY Times for February Trial

In an opinion Monday, Judge Rakoff refused to vacate an antitrust arbitration ruling in Uber’s favor, even though the arbitrator joked at one point: “I must say I act out of fear. My fear is if I ruled Uber illegal, I would need security. I wouldn’t be able to walk the streets at night. People would be after me.”

Judge Rakoff found this was merely a poor attempt at humor by an arbitrator that had better jokes on other occasions in the case (e.g., “ARBITRATOR: I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but when surge prices go on, I check Lyft. [KALANICK]: That’s fair.”):
Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: Arbitrator’s Joke About “Fearing” Uber Does Not Justify Vacating Award

On Wednesday, Judge Rakoff granted summary judgment in favor of New York State and the Kings County District Attorney in their challenge to a decision by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (“ICE”) to greatly increase civil immigration arrests in and around courthouses. Plaintiffs had alleged that the directive exceeded ICE’s statutory authority and had been adopted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. See our previous coverage here.

Judge Rakoff agreed, finding that the Immigration and Nationality Act incorporated the “centuries-old common law privilege against courthouse civil arrest.”  He also found that ICE had “offered no rationale other than its misguided reliance” on an Executive Order, which had directed the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize immigration enforcement against broader categories of aliens but was not addressed to courthouse arrests. Judge Rakoff’s ruling also emphasized the that ICE’s policy was compounding the challenges already presented by COVID-19:
Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: ICE Policy of Making Immigration Arrests at Courthouses is Illegal

On Friday, Judge Rakoff dismissed a class action complaint in which a fantasy sports contestant alleged that Major League Baseball’s recent cheating scandals fatally compromised the fairness of fantasy contests promoted by the league. (Click here for previous coverage.) Although the conduct “broke the hearts of all true baseball fans,” Judge Rakoff held that the league did not owe fantasy baseball participants any duty of disclosure or care that could support claims for fraud or negligence, and that the plaintiff’s consumer protection and unjust enrichment claims were “too attenuated to support liability.”  The opinion begins:

Continue Reading Judge Rakoff: MLB Broke the Hearts of All True Baseball Fans, But Did Not Break the Law