Court Holds That OPRAmachine and its Administrators Cannot Be Sued Over Content of Public Records Uploaded to Website by Public Entities
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Atlantic City, NJ - OPRAmachine, the trusted platform for New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests, and its founder Gavin Rozzi, are delighted to announce a significant legal victory in the recent class action lawsuit brought against them in Cape May County Superior Court. This legal victory preserves our right to continue operating the OPRAmachine service without the threat of frivolous lawsuits seeking to hold us vicariously liable for the contents of public records uploaded by public entities to the OPRAmachine website.
Class Action Complaint Dismissed as to OPRAmachine
On May 17th, 2023, Superior Court Judge Ralph A. Paolone granted OPRAmachine and Rozzi's motion for reconsideration, dismissing all remaining counts against the company that operates OPRAmachine and affirming the platform's immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act from liability related to third-party content which includes public records uploaded to the website.
The lawsuit, captioned Andrew Moon et al v. City of North Wildwood et al, was filed as a putative class action on November 16th, 2022, by plaintiffs Andrew Moon, Tyler Huck, and Ryan Ladd. The case centered around an OPRA request made in 2022 for the North Wildwood Fire Department Civil Service List by an OPRAmachine user. Despite OPRAmachine's immediate action to rectify a redaction oversight by the North Wildwood City Clerk, the plaintiffs and their attorneys sought to hold OPRAmachine and its administrator liable for the North Wildwood City Clerk's redaction failure.
OPRAmachine and Rozzi filed a motion to dismiss the complaint through their attorney. Judge Paolone originally granted the motion as to Rozzi and denied it as to OPRAmachine in a March ruling. Subsequently, OPRAmachine's attorney filed a motion for reconsideration asking the Court once again to dismiss the complaint as to OPRAmachine, which was granted on May 17th.
Judge Paolone's ruling solidifies the essential protections provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, preventing online platforms like OPRAmachine from being subjected to unfounded legal actions over content they have no control over. This landmark decision safeguards freedom of speech online and shields platforms from the threat of costly litigation that could stifle open dialogue and freedom of speech online. Without these protections, online platforms would be forced to engage in heavy-handed and overly burdensome moderation which would stifle open debate and discussion. Given that OPRAmachine has processed over 40,000 requests, it would be impossible to operate the website on a statewide scale without this immunity.
OPRAmachine Immune from Lawsuits Under Section 230
The court found that the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. 230, which provides that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider" immunizes OPRAmachine and its administrators from any civil actions pertaining to user-generated content uploaded to the website.
Gavin Rozzi, founder and administrator of OPRAmachine, expressed his reaction to the ruling, stating, "This victory reinforces the crucial importance of Section 230 in protecting the rights of online platforms and their users. I am very grateful to the Court for seeing through the misleading arguments and suppositions advanced by the Plaintiffs in this case. Without these protections, class action lawyers and powerful individuals could exploit the threat of baseless and costly litigation to suppress freedom of speech and destroy the ability of online platforms like OPRAmachine to operate. This case should have never been brought in the first place, and it's exactly why people have lost trust in class action lawyers who are solely motivated by the promise of a big payout."
"Not only was there nothing on the table in this case, there is no table here. Let others who may consider legal action against the OPRAmachine over user-generated content be guided accordingly."
Rozzi also highlighted the spurious nature of the plaintiffs' claims, saying, "It is intriguing that despite the City of North Wildwood offering free identity theft monitoring to the plaintiffs, they chose not to take advantage of it. Now, they claim they are at risk. These inconsistencies raise doubts about the credibility of their claims and ability to serve as class representatives."
Rozzi acknowleged OPRAmachine attorney Bill Sosis, of Sosis Law, LLC. Sosis capably represented OPRAmachine and obtained the outcome we were hoping for.
Questionable Motives of Plaintiffs
In addition, Rozzi commented on the unprofessional conduct of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Oliver T. Barry and Erika Lezama-Simonson of Barry Corrado & Grassi (a/k/a Cape Legal) during the course of the litigation, stating, " This case should have never been brought as it flew in the face of federal law. The unprofessional behavior exhibited by Barry and Lezama-Simonson throughout this case is deeply disappointing. They cited an overturned district court case in their briefs in a cavalier attempt to mislead the court and repeatedly missed deadlines, displaying a lack of diligence and disregard for legal procedure. It was clear that they were both out of their depths here. This outcome totally disproves the malicious lies about myself and OPRAmachine contained in their complaint."
Even worse, Frank Corrado, a partner in Barry's firm previously represented the Internet Archive and argued the exact opposite legal position in federal court, so this firm clearly should have known better before pursuing this dead-end theory of liability against OPRAmachine. This is a firm that clearly should have known better given Corrado's civil rights work and esteemed background in Section 230 advocacy on behalf of the Internet Archive.
With this legal victory, the ability of OPRAmachine to continue delivering value for New Jersey residents has never been more secure. This outcome ensures that we can continue operating our platform, without the fear of frivolous litigation destroying what we've built. This ruling serves as a reminder that online platforms like OPRAmachine can operate with full confidence, knowing that their protection under Section 230 remains intact.
For those interested in listening to the oral argument, we have obtained a copy of the official recording and uploaded it here: