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Airbnb, Inc. v. City of Boston

United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

May 3, 2019, Decided; May 3, 2019, Filed

Civil No. 18-12358-LTS

Opinion

 [*116]  ORDER ON MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION (DOC. NO. 3)

SOROKIN, J.

Airbnb, Inc. seeks a preliminary injunction barring the enforcement of certain provisions in a City of Boston ordinance aimed at regulating short-term residential rentals in Boston. In particular, Airbnb claims three sections of the ordinance are preempted by or violate the Communications Decency Act, the Stored Communications Act, and/or the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. After careful consideration, Airbnb's motion is ALLOWED in part and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Based in San Francisco, Airbnb is a company that operates an "online marketplace for people to list, explore, and book both short-term and long-term housing accommodations." Doc. No. 1 at 5.1 Its platform [**2]  connects "hosts" and "guests," facilitates their communication with one another to reserve and book short- or long-term rental accommodations, and "provides payment processing services" at the time of booking. Id. at 5-6. Airbnb charges no fees when a host lists a property on the platform, nor does it own or operate any of the properties. Id. at 6. Rather, it makes money by collecting "a service fee from both the guest and the host," "determined as a percentage of the accommodation fee set solely by the host," which compensates Airbnb for "its publishing, listing, and booking services." Id. The fee is collected "instantaneously" at the time of booking. Doc. No. 5 at 2. Airbnb has a subsidiary that exists "solely" to provide payment processing services for transactions occurring on its platform. Doc. No. 34 at 1.

The bulk of the content in Airbnb listings is provided by the hosts. In particular, hosts provide unit locations and descriptions, set limits on lengths of stay, determine their own prices, and choose whether and how to disclose compliance with applicable state and local registration requirements or other similar regulations. Id. at 2-3; Doc. No. 5 at 4. "As a general matter, Airbnb does not review" [**3]  a listing before it is published on the platform, nor does it edit the content of listings. Doc. No. 5 at 4-5. It does, however, provide "certain ancillary features" that can generate automated notifications in connection with listings. Doc. No. 34 at 2-3.

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386 F. Supp. 3d 113 *; 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74823 **; 2019 WL 1981043

AIRBNB, INC., Plaintiff, v. CITY OF BOSTON, Defendant.

Subsequent History: Appeal dismissed by Airbnb, Inc. v. City of Boston, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 36237 (1st Cir., Sept. 3, 2019)

CORE TERMS

Ordinance, listings, rental, booking, host, fine, short-term, platform, users, publisher, booking agent, ENJOINED, Boston, online, preliminary injunction, regulations, third-party, website, challenges, disclosure, provider, Fourth Amendment, ineligible, parties, registration, provisions, succeed, collecting, subsidiary, decisions