hiQ Labs, Inc. v. LinkedIn Corp., No. 17-16783 (9th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction in favor of hiQ, a data analytics company, prohibiting LinkedIn, a professional networking website, from denying hiQ access to publicly available LinkedIn member profiles.
The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that hiQ currently has no viable way to remain in business other than using LinkedIn public profile data for its Keeper and Skill Mapper services, and that HiQ therefore has demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction. The panel also held that the district court's determination that the balance of hardships tips sharply in hiQ's favor was not illogical, implausible, or without support in the record; hiQ raised serious questions regarding the merits of its tortious interference with contract claim and LinkedIn's legitimate business purpose defense; hiQ also raised a serious question regarding whether state law causes of action were preempted by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; and the district court's conclusion that the public interest favors granting the preliminary injunction was appropriate.
Court Description: Preliminary Injunction / Computer Fraud and Abuse Act The panel affirmed the district court’s preliminary injunction forbidding the professional networking website LinkedIn Corp. from denying plaintiff hiQ, a data analytics company, access to publicly available LinkedIn member profiles. Using automated bots, hiQ scrapes information that LinkedIn users have included on public LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn sent hiQ a cause-and-desist letter, demanding that hiQ stop accessing and copying data from LinkedIn’s server. HiQ filed suit, seeking injunctive relief based on California law and a declaratory judgment that LinkedIn could not lawfully invoke the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, California Penal Code § 502(c), or the common law of trespass against it. Affirming the district court’s grant of the preliminary injunction in favor of hiQ, the panel concluded that hiQ established a likelihood of irreparable harm because the survival of its business was threatened. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in balancing the equities and concluding that, even if some LinkedIn users retain some privacy interests in their information notwithstanding their decision to make their profiles public, HIQ LABS V. LINKEDIN 3 those interests did not outweigh hiQ’s interest in continuing its business. Thus, the balance of hardships tipped decidedly in favor of hiQ. The panel further held that hiQ raised serious questions going to (1) the merits of its claim for tortious interference with contract, alleging that LinkedIn intentionally interfered with its contracts with third parties, and (2) the merits of LinkedIn’s legitimate business purpose defense. HiQ also raised a serious question as to whether its state law causes of action were preempted by the CFAA, which prohibits intentionally accessing a computer without authorization, or exceeding authorized access, and thereby obtaining information from any protected computer. LinkedIn argued that, once hiQ received its cause-and-desist letter, any further scraping and use of LinkedIn’s data was without authorization within the meaning of the CFAA. The panel concluded that hiQ had raised a serious question as to whether the CFAA’s reference to access “without authorization” limits the scope of statutory coverage to computer information for which authorization or access permission, such as password authentication, is generally required. Finally, the panel held that the district court’s conclusion that the public interest favored granting the preliminary injunction was appropriate. Specially concurring, Judge Wallace wrote that he concurred in the majority opinion. He wrote separately to express his concern about appealing from a preliminary injunction to obtain an appellate court’s view of the merits. 4 HIQ LABS V. LINKEDIN
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on April 18, 2022.