Articles Posted in Communications Law

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In 2011, in order to combat the use of anonymous prepaid cell phone for criminal purposes, the Puerto Rico Governor signed into law the Registry Act, which requires telephone companies and other sellers of prepaid phones to provide information about the purchasers of the phones to the government of Puerto Rico, which then compiles a registry with the names, numbers, and addresses of the purchasers. Plaintiff, a non-profit corporation that represents the interests of the wireless communications industry, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the Registry Act was preempted by the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) because the SCA prohibits Plaintiff’s members from turning over to the government without a subpoena the information required by the Registry Act. The district court granted Plaintiff’s motion for a permanent injunction. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Registry Act is preempted by the SCA, and its enforcement should be enjoined. View "CTIA - The Wireless Assoc. v. P.R. Telecomms. Regulatory Bd." on Justia Law

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Green Mountain Realty Corp. (“GMR”) sought to erect a 140-foot cell phone tower in Milton, Massachusetts that would fill a significant gap in the wireless coverage provided by T-Mobile’s networks. The Town of Milton rejected the proposed tower. GMR sued Milton in federal court. The district court granted summary judgment to Milton. The First Circuit Court of Appeals remanded for consideration of whether Milton’s denials resulted an “effective prohibition” of personal wireless services in contravention of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. On remand, GMR submitted evidence indicating that a shorter tower would suffice to eliminate the coverage gap in T-Mobile’s network. The district court granted summary judgment for Milton. The First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a reasonable finder of fact could have found Milton’s denials rejected the only feasible plan for remedying the coverage gap and therefore constituted an unlawful effective prohibition of T-Mobile’s provision of wireless services, unless GMR was allowed to build a cell phone tower between ninety and 120 feet tall. Remanded. View "Green Mountain Realty Corp. v. Leonard" on Justia Law

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Green Mountain owns cellular phone towers and leases space to federally licensed providers of wireless telecommunications services, who mount antennae on the towers to service their cellular networks. Green Mountain entered into an agreement with an agency of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to lease land in Milton, an unzoned triangular section, approximately 2,700 square feet, formed by the intersection of I-93 and the southbound on-ramp. Applications to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals and the Milton Conservation Commission were denied. Green Mountain challenged the decisions as not supported by "substantial evidence," as required by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iii); as constituting an "effective prohibition" on provision of wireless services in the area in violation of the TCA; and as violating Massachusetts state law. The district court granted summary judgment upholding the denials. The First Circuit affirmed with respect to the substantial evidence claims, but vacated in part. The district court did not adequately address evidence supporting the effective prohibition claim. View "Green Mountain Realty Corp. v. Leonard" on Justia Law

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The Eastern Orthodox monastic order began a spiritual affiliation with the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR)in 1965. Although the Monastery concedes it commemorated the bishops of ROCOR until 1986, it considers itself an independent entity. The Monastery's 35 monks worked on translating religious texts from their original Greek into English. The works were in demand amongst parishes, but the Monastery obliged requests on a limited basis. One of the monks went to Colorado where he formed Dormition Skete, dedicated to painting traditional Orthodox icons. A Skete member, the Archbishop, created a website devoted to the Orthodox faith. Based on postings on that site, the Monastery sued the Archbishop, in state court, for copyright infringement. The parties settled with the Archbishop acknowledging the Monastery’s ownership of the works. The website continued to include its translations; the Monastery filed a federal suit, 17 U.S.C. 101. The district ruled in favor of the Monastery, rejecting claims or public domain, that ROCOR was the true owner of the copyrights, and of fair use. The First Circuit affirmed. The Archbishop offered identical or near-identical versions of the works on his website for the precise purpose for which the Monastery originally created them, harming their potential market value. View "Soc'y of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Inc. v. Archbishop Gregory of Denver" on Justia Law

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The Belfast Project collected taped interviews of the recollections of members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Provisional Sinn Fein, the Ulster Volunteer Force, and other paramilitary and political organizations involved in the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland from 1969 forward. The Project had various confidentiality measures in place, but in 2011, the United States submitted an application to the district court ex parte and under seal pursuant to the US-UK Mutual Assistance Treaty and 18 U.S.C. 3512, seeking appointment of an Assistant U.S. Attorney to collect evidence and to take other action to effectuate a request from law enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom, concerning the 1972 murder and kidnapping of Jean McConville. The district court granted the government's application. The First Circuit affirmed, stating that there was no First Amendment basis for challenging the subpoenas. The fact that communications were made under a promise of confidentiality does not create a privilege. View "In Re: Request from the United Kingdom" on Justia Law

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PRTC and T-Mobile entered into an interconnection agreement under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in 1999 and into a second agreement in 2001. The agreements provided that certain intrastate access services provided by PRTC, an incumbent local exchange carrier, would be billed at a rate contained in PRTC's federal tariff filed with the FCC. T-Mobile was billed at this rate until 2002, when PRTC announced its view that this billing rate was in error, the disputed services were not covered under the agreement, and the applicable billing rate was a higher rate found in PRTC's local tariff. Roughly $2 million is at issue. The Telecommunications Regulatory Board of Puerto Rico ruled in favor of T-Mobile as a matter of contract law, holding that the FCC tariff rate applied. The district court granted summary judgment for PRTC and vacated the order as discriminating against third-party carriers, in violation of federal law. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the agreement was neither discriminatory nor violative of any other provision of federal law. View "PR Tel. Co., Inc. v. T-Mobile PR, LLC" on Justia Law

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Having lost his bid for a Maine Senate seat, plaintiff sued Republican party leadership for defamation libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and publicly placing him in a false light. The complaint referred to flyers, brochures, and radio and TV ads days before the election that conjured up imaginary wrongs that he had supposedly done as a selectman for the town of Blue Hill, primarily concerning discontinuance of fireworks on the Fourth of July. The complaint referred to "actual malice." The district court dismissed. The First Circuit affirmed, finding that false statements were made negligently, not with actual malice. Defamation law "does not require that combatants for public office act like war-time neutrals, treating everyone evenhandedly and always taking the high road. Quite the contrary. Provided that they do not act with actual malice, they can badmouth their opponents, hammering them with unfair and one-sided attacks"

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After several failed attempts to establish a voluntary interconnection agreement, the two telecommunications companies went into arbitration with defendant, the Telecommunications Regulatory Board of Puerto Rico. Following a remand, the Board approved a final interconnection agreement pursuant to its authority under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 251. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of the Board. The First Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that various provisions were arbitrary.

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Defendant, a film company, released a documentary, "The Price of Sugar," in 2007 that depicts treatment of Haitian laborers at sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic. The film mentions plaintiffs, senior executives of family plantations, by name. In a suit for defamation, the court entered summary judgment for defendant and denied a motion to compel production of discovery materials. The First Circuit affirmed in part. The plaintiffs are limited public figures in the entire United States, who used their access to the press to launch a PR blitz, thereby risking public scrutiny. Their conduct was beyond a reasonable reply to negative publicity. The court remanded for consideration of actual malice, based on communications between defendant and a fact-checker, hired at the suggestion of defense counsel.

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Defendant, convicted of interstate stalking, cyberstalking, and mailing a threatening communication (18 U.S.C. 2261A(1)-(2), 876(c)), based on communications with his estranged wife and minor child, was sentenced to 137 months. The First Circuit affirmed. The district court acted within its discretion in denying a change of venue or transfer. There was sufficient evidence to support the convictions. Defendant waived challenge to the indictment under FRCP 12(e); he did not show good cause for failing to raise the challenge before trial. The court acted within its discretion in allowing evidence of prior bad acts and imposing the sentence.