Legal Roundup: Rideshare Companies Continue Independent Contractor Fight, Parler Sues Amazon Over Shutdown and More

The latest court filings and cases that will have an impact on the risk management and insurance industry.
By: | January 21, 2021

Uber, Lyft Drivers Sue Over Independent Contractor Status

The Case: A group of Uber and Lyft drivers have sued to overturn a recently passed California ballot initiative that deems them independent contractors.

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The Associated Press reports: “The lawsuit filed with the California Supreme Court said Proposition 22 is unconstitutional because it limits the power of the Legislature to grant workers the right to organize and excludes drivers from being eligible for workers’ compensation.”

Written by Uber and Lyft and supported with $200 million, “the measure granted the delivery services an exemption from the law that would have required providing drivers with protections like minimum wage, overtime, health insurance and reimbursement for expenses,” the Associated Press noted.

Uber and Lyft had argued that keeping drivers as independent contractors allows them to work truly flexible schedules, a major advantage of the job.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: The drivers are facing an uphill battle. The ballot initiative passed with 58% of the vote, and overturning the will of the people is no easy task.

Nike Files Wide-Ranging Counterfeit Lawsuit

The Case: If you want a fake pair of Air Jordans, you can probably find them online.

That doesn’t sit well with Nike, as the shoe and athletic wear giant has sued a wide range of alleged counterfeiters including operators of 589 websites, 676 social media accounts and more than 100 unidentified companies.

PYMTS.com reports: “Nike wrote in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Manhattan that its trademarks ‘are among the most widely recognized trademarks in the United States and around the world, as well as among the most popular with consumers. The fame and popularity of plaintiffs’ marks adds enormous value to the authentic … Nike products and Converse products.’ ”

Nike wants “the court to order the defendants to halt all manufacture and sale of counterfeit Nike and Converse products, and to deliver all existing counterfeits, packaging, advertising and similar material up for destruction,” the article says.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: Counterfeiting is as old as the fashion industry itself. It’s just too easy for manufacturers to make clothing that’s nearly identical to name brands — especially with today’s technology.

That doesn’t make it right or legal — and companies like Nike have been vigorously defending their trademarks for years. Even if Nike is successful in this case, it will likely face more bad actors in the future.

Parler Sues Amazon for Halting Web Hosting

The Case: The fallout from the insurrection at the Capitol put tech companies center stage.

After former President Trump was banned from Twitter, other companies began making similar moves.

One was Amazon Web Services, which revoked web hosting for Parler — a Twitter-like social media company that leans to conservative users.

The Verge reports: “Parler claims Amazon Web Services severed ties to stop Parler from competing with the larger social platform Twitter, and it’s asking a court to stop Amazon from shutting down its account — arguing that an extended shutdown would be like ‘pulling the plug on a hospital patient on life support.’ ”

The article also offers Amazon’s rationale for banning Parler. “In an email, Amazon’s moderation team says it is ‘troubled’ by repeated policy violations. The email cites 98 posts that incite violence.”

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: Moderating content has become a top-of-mind discussion in American business and politics.

Is it even possible for companies like Facebook and Twitter to moderate the mountains of comments, images, and videos on their platforms? Is it possible to moderate evenly along political lines? Is it ever okay for websites and social media companies to give users free reign to truly say or post anything they want? Those questions will loom large not only in this case but as society moves forward.

Facebook Sues Over Data Scraping Web Extensions

The Case: Facebook is suing two Portuguese nationals for allegedly scraping Facebook user data. They offered web extensions for browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Microsoft Edge, then allegedly used them to mine data from 54,000 Facebook users.

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ZDNet quoted Jessica Romero, Facebook’s director of platform enforcement and litigation, as saying:

“When people installed these extensions on their browsers, they were installing concealed code designed to scrape their information from the Facebook website, but also information from the users’ browsers unrelated to Facebook — all without their knowledge … If the user visited the Facebook website, the browser extensions were programmed to scrape their name, user ID, gender, relationship status, age group and other information related to their account.”

Scorecard: This case has recently been filed and has not come to a resolution.

Takeaway: It’s the latest in a long list of Facebook lawsuits against app creators and web extension providers.

In November 2020, the company sued “a Turkish national for operating a network of at least 20 Instagram clones,” ZDNet reported — while in March 2020 it “sued Namecheap, one of the biggest domain name registrars on the internet, to unmask hackers who registered malicious domains through its service.” &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]