Subway And Quiznos Settle Dispute Over User-Generated Ads; Liability Questions Remain For Next Lawsuit

from the truth-in-advertising dept

Back in 2008, we wrote about a lawsuit between rival sandwich shop chains Subway and Quiznos over a viral ad campaign. Quiznos had set up a contest to get fans to create and upload commercials for its stores, and Subway claimed that many of the ads made false claims about Subway. To Subway, this made Quiznos guilty of false advertising. Quiznos used Section 230 to claim that it wasn’t responsible for the content of the ads, since it hadn’t actually created them. However, with Subway saying that Quiznos was actively involved in some aspects of the ad creation, the judge wouldn’t grant a summary judgment on Section 230, and wanted the case brought to a jury to consider. Not surprisingly, at this point, Quiznos folded faster than one of its toasted sandwiches, and the two sides settled the case.

While you can understand why this happened, it still leaves us without a ruling — meaning that there will likely be more lawsuits of this nature coming down the road. With so many “user-generated content” contests out there, the question of liability for the content could become a pretty big issue… and I’d guess that most companies trying out these contests haven’t given it much thought at all.

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Companies: quiznos, subway

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Comments on “Subway And Quiznos Settle Dispute Over User-Generated Ads; Liability Questions Remain For Next Lawsuit”

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Derek Kerton (profile) says:

But isn’t Sec 230 inappropriate here? Isn’t Quizno’s actively curating, selecting, and editing the content?

I mean, if I wanted to upload a video of my cat playing piano, would they put that video up? If I uploaded a video of me eating at Quizno’s but then saying ‘Subway is cleaner and better’ would they leave that video up? If so, then Sec 230 may apply, as they would be a neutral host of any content.

But if they actively direct what type of content they are seeking, or they actively select what to post, or they actively take down videos counter to their sought-after narrative, well then, they are directly involved in the production of the content on the site. I see that as very different than YouTube in Italy.

I love Section 230, and I think it essential to the Internet, modern many-to-many communications, and our freedom of speech on the Interwebs. That’s why I don’t want to see it abused in situations where it doesn’t apply. I would hate to see Quizno’s lose a case, and have it count as a “precedent against Sec 230”.

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