' Nicholas Orr | MTTLR

Online and Blind: Recent Ninth Circuit Decision Paves Way for More ADA Litigation

A recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit provides an even stronger basis for litigation against companies whose websites are not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). As the internet plays an ever-greater role in society, the ability to navigate the online world presents extraordinary challenges for visually impaired individuals. Many blind people employ “screen reader” tools that read the contents of the website aloud. Poorly designed websites, improper labels of pictures, and broken links all hinder the ability of the software to adequately navigate pages on the internet. In United States, federal disability law provides one way for the blind to hold companies accountable for maintaining accessible websites. Title III of the ADA provides “[n]o individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.” Courts have interpreted places of public accommodation to include websites connected to physical businesses. In recent years there has been a surge of cases aimed at forcing companies to make their websites more accessible to the visually impaired. Though many of these lawsuits settle for small amounts and an agreement for the company to improve the website within two years, some companies have resisted private enforcement of the ADA. In January, the Ninth Circuit decided Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, 918 F.3d 898 (9th Cir. 2019), a case that advocates hope will pave the way for more...

Tighter Regulations, Less Competition

On August 31, 2018 the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (“NPC”) passed new regulations governing China’s e-commerce market. The passage of the legislation comes at the end of more than five years of drafts and negotiations with input from the country’s major technology companies. The new e-commerce law is set to take effect on January 1, 2019 and is predicted to have important effects on online transaction standards and protections for intellectual property. Despite the new requirements on e-commerce operators, the existing cohort of large internet companies is likely to benefit from the moat created by the new legislation. At $1 trillion, China’s e-commerce market is the world’s largest and is set to continue its expansion. In the country’s largest cities, more than eighty percent of adults shop online. Indeed, with more than 800 million internet users—more than the United States and India combined—the domestic internet companies are among the world’s largest. Unsurprisingly, the new e-commerce law was largely influenced by the likes of Alibaba, Tencent, JD.com and other major internet companies. The resulting regulations, though stricter, benefit those operators with the scale to adequately police counterfeit products. Article 42 provides “[w]here the intellectual property rights rights-holder feels that their intellectual property rights have been violated, they have the right to notify the e-commerce platform operator to take necessary measures such as deleting, blocking, disconnecting links, or ending transactions or services.” This provision directly addresses the longstanding problem of counterfeit goods sold on Chinese e-commerce platforms. The law imposes the duty that “[a]fter e-commerce platform operators receive notice, they shall promptly employ necessary measures and send the notice...