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Airbnb, Inc. v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco

United States District Court for the Northern District of California

November 8, 2016, Decided; November 8, 2016, Filed

Case No. 3:16 -cv-03615-JD

Opinion

 [*1069]  ORDER RE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

Re: Dkt. No. 50

Plaintiffs Airbnb, Inc. ("Airbnb") and HomeAway, Inc. ("HomeAway") seek a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of a City and County of San Francisco ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to provide booking services for unregistered rental units. The parties agreed that an evidentiary hearing was not necessary and the Court took oral argument on the motion on October 6, 2016. The injunction is denied on the primary grounds urged by plaintiffs, but further proceedings are warranted on an issue relating to fair enforcement.

BACKGROUND

This case arises out of San Francisco's effort to regulate aspects of the "sharing economy" for accommodation rentals. Airbnb is a San Francisco-based company that operates an Internet website through which "guests" can connect with "hosts" to enter into agreements to rent accommodations on a short- or long-term basis. Dkt. No. 50 at 3; Dkt. No. 52 ¶¶ 1, 2. Airbnb does not own, manage or operate any of the host properties, and is not a party to the rental agreements. Dkt. No. [**3]  50 at 3; Dkt. No. 52 ¶ 4. It does not charge an upfront fee for hosts to post a listing on its website, and does not run banner ads or other forms of advertising next to the listings. Dkt. No. 52 ¶ 9; Dkt. No. 72 at 18:5-6. Airbnb makes money by charging hosts and guests a service fee that is a percentage based on the cost of the rental. Dkt. No. 52 ¶ 8. Airbnb has been phenomenally successful nationally and internationally since its inception in 2008. HomeAway also features an Internet website that operates in part on the same business model. Dkt. No. 72 at 4:11-14.

 [*1070]  An important feature of plaintiffs' websites is that content for the rental listings is driven entirely by hosts. Dkt. No. 52 ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 72 at 18:13-15. The posting process is automated and requires the host to fill in some required fields, but plaintiffs do not verify, review or edit the information provided by the host, and do not contribute content of their own to the listing. Dkt. No. 52 ¶ 7; Dkt. No. 72 at 17:2-25.

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217 F. Supp. 3d 1066 *; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 155039 **; 2016 WL 6599821

AIRBNB, INC., et al., Plaintiffs, v. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Defendant.

Subsequent History: Injunction granted at Airbnb, Inc. v. City & County of San Francisco, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160451 (N.D. Cal., Nov. 18, 2016)

CORE TERMS

Ordinance, hosts, First Amendment, rental, plaintiffs', listings, publisher, preemption, Internet, Booking, registration, registered, advertising, online, regulation, short-term, Platforms, postings, injunction, lawfully, website, preliminary injunction, unregistered, user, third party, restrictions, provider, cases, commercial speech, third-party