A federal judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit by the company behind Craft Beer Cellar outlets against an online site that lets people post reviews of their workplaces, because of a federal law that protects sites against suits over comments made on sites by third parties.
Craft Beer Stellar, LLC of Belmont had sued Glassdoor, Inc., in March over negative reviews, allegedly by former Craft Beer Cellar franchisees, and that the postings revealed proprietary company and franchise information in violation of both federal and state law.
In a ruling posted yesterday, US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor said Glassdoor is protected by a section of the federal Communications Act that protects online sites in actions related to content that they themselves did not create, for example, workplace reviews.
Craft Beer Stellar argued the fact that Glassdoor took down one of the reviews at its request, then allowed it to be re-posted it with a revision showed Glassdoor had something to do with its creation. But Saylor said that just "constituted the exercise of a traditional editorial function," which is allowed under the act. "Without more, Glassdoor cannot be deemed responsible for creating or developing the content," and so it remains protected under the act, both for the allegedly derogatory comments and any possible trade secrets they might have contained.
Saylor also rejected Craft Beer Stellar's argument that Glassdoor publishing what it considered trade secrets warranted punishment under a Massachusetts law barring "misappropriation of trade secrets."
Saylor said the law only applies to companies that have a "confidential relationship" with each other:
Although CBS alleges that it shared a confidential relationship with its employees who supposedly wrote the negative reviews on Glassdoor’s website, it has not - and seemingly cannot - contend that it ever shared a confidential relationship with Glassdoor. Accordingly, the complaint does not satisfy the third element of trade secret misappropriation under Massachusetts law, and that the claim will therefore be dismissed.