Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, January 3, 2024


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Lawsuit Reinstated Against Online Propagators in Czech Republic of Child Pornography

Ninth Circuit Holds That, Accepting as True Facts Pled, Websites Were Aimed at U.S. Market, Conferring Personal Jurisdiction


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A District Court judge erred in finding a lack of jurisdiction over 11 foreign companies accused in a putative class action of disseminating child pornography, saying that, according to the pleading, the two alleged major culprits, both located in the Czech Republic, “expressly aimed” videos at the United States.

Those companies are WebGroup Czech Republic, a.s. (“WGCZ”) and NKL Associates, s.r.o. The other nine defendants are said to be their alter egos.

Judge Daniel P. Collins authored the opinion. Judge Kenneth K. Lee placed an additional thought in a concurring opinion.

The plaintiff, who is depicted on videos being sexually abused as a child, sued as “Jane Doe” on her own behalf and on behalf of other victims of childhood sex-trafficking. One video of Doe purportedly had been viewed more than 160,000 times before being taken down in response to a cease-and-desist letter being sent by Doe’s lawyer in 2020.

The April 8, 2022 dismissal with prejudice of claims against WGCZ and NKL by District Court Senior Judge Virginia Phillips of the Central District of California was reversed; her order dismissing the nine other defendants, having been tethered to the notion that jurisdiction does not exist as to WGCZ and NKL, was vacated.

Collins said that Doe “sufficiently established a prima facie case for exercising personal jurisdiction over WGCZ and NKL, and those defendants failed to show that the exercise of such jurisdiction would be unreasonable.”

Purposely Directed

Under the facts that were pled, WGCZ and NKL “purposely directed their websites at the U.S. market,” Collins said. He noted that the websites’ content was in English, U.S.-based service providers were used, and the defendants “garnered substantial and financially valuable web traffic in the United States.”

He added that Doe and those similarly situated were harmed as a result of the videos being aimed at the U.S. and that WGCZ and NKL failed to show that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over them would be unreasonable.

 Among the other factors the jurist examined was the interest of the forum in adjudicating the dispute. He declared:

“[A] U.S. forum has a very powerful interest in adjudicating a dispute involving alleged dissemination of child pornography depicting the rape of a 14-year-old U.S. citizen who was subjected to sex trafficking….By contrast, there is no unreasonable interference with the sovereignty of the Czech Republic, given that there is and can be no contention that hosting videos of 14-year-olds being raped is lawful under Czech law.”

Collins continued:

“And the ‘most efficient judicial resolution’ of this controversy concerning claims made by a U.S. citizen under U.S. law about the website publication of materials made available in the United States would be in a U.S. forum.”

He found the inconvenience of having to travel to the U.S. for court appearance to pale in light of these factors.

Concurring Opinion

Lee said in his separate opinion:

“I largely agree with Judge Collins’ excellent opinion. But I write separately because it would have been prudent for the district court to have ordered very limited jurisdictional discovery here. Such discovery would have tethered the district court’s analysis more tightly onto our circuit’s personal jurisdiction framework.

“For example, it would have helped to know the extent of WGCZ’s and NKL’s use of content delivery network services (CDNs) in the United States—and elsewhere around the globe—to improve the viewing experience of their users. That, in turn, would have aided us in determining whether WGCZ and NKL differentially targeted the United States and thus expressly aimed at our market.”

He added:

“But even without such jurisdictional discovery, other evidence and common sense strongly suggest that WGCZ and NKL expressly aimed at the United States market. And it makes little sense to insist on a remand on that issue and further delay this case involving allegations of underaged sex trafficking….But in other less obvious cases, it may behoove a district court to allow jurisdictional discovery, especially if the pleadings are imprecise.”

The case is Doe v. Webgroup Czech Republic, a.s., 22-55315.


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