Online monitoring company DoubleVerify is drawing support from a broad array of outside groups, including movie industry and news organizations, in a battle with online video distributor FilmOn.
The dispute stems from allegations that DoubleVerify reported to its clients that FilmOn was a copyright infringer and displayer of adult content. In 2014, FilmOn sued DoubleVerify for libel, arguing that the reports were false and misleading.
DoubleVerify successfully argued to a trial judge and appellate court that the lawsuit should be dismissed under California's anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) law, which protects people's right to discuss matters of public interest.
FilmOn recently urged California's highest court to revive the lawsuit. Among other arguments, FilmOn says DoubleVerify produces "confidential commercial reports" that don't contribute to public debate.
FilmOn argued that the reports don't contribute to public debate because they're only sent to private customers. (FilmOn says it learned from a former client about DoubleVerify's reports in late 2013.)
DoubleVerify countered that its reports are comparable to material produced by news organizations.
"DoubleVerify, not unlike traditional forms of media such as newspapers and other news services, and much like such organizations as Consumer Reports and the Better Business Bureau, conducts extensive investigation and disseminates detailed reports about the content of millions of companies and websites. This is quintessential fully-protected speech," the group wrote in papers it submitted to the California Supreme Court earlier this year.
Now, groups including the MPAA, Hearst Corporation, California News Publishers Association and First Amendment Coalition are siding with DoubleVerify, arguing that the company's reports are entitled to the anti-SLAPP protections.
"DoubleVerify's reports plainly are in the public interest," the MPAA and others write in a friend-of-the-court brief filed earlier this month. "In today's complicated media environment, information that aids businesses in engaging in socially and fiscally responsible advertising decisions is vital."
The groups add that companies like DoubleVerify help businesses to avoid placing ads on sites with problematic content, including pirated material.
"Entities like DoubleVerify play a vital role for businesses advertising in today's media environment," they write. "Adopting an interpretation of the anti-SLAPP statues that would remove protection from speech that furthers the strong public interest in transparency in advertising would deprive a large number of speakers of the protection the Legislature intends for them."
One reason why the lower courts sided with DoubleVerify was that questions about copyright infringement and adult content online have garnered a great deal of attention. When FilmOn initially brought the case, the company was fighting several copyright lawsuits by TV broadcasters. Those cases, which were eventually settled, centered on FilmOn's prior streaming platform, which reportedly used antennas to capture and transmit programs. The Supreme Court said in June 2014 that a similar system, operated by the defunct Aereo, infringed copyright.