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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Teen Users Lack Basis to Fight Ads, Facebook Says

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Facebook demands dismissal of a federal class action alleging that the social ads it features wrongly include the names and photos of teenage users.

Originally filed over two years ago in Illinois, the lawsuit has since been amended twice and was transferred to California pursuant to Facebook's terms of use on venue for legal actions.

Seven Illinois teenagers, suing through their parents, sit as the lead plaintiffs in the class action, which alleges that Facebook profits of the use of their names and likenesses by republishing their actions - such as when they "Like" another Facebook page - alongside a related advertisement.

In its latest motion to dismiss, Facebook argues that the current version of the complaint should be dismissed, as the teen users failed to show that the ads caused financially injury. The complaint does not suggest that the teens could have received compensation for the alleged ads at issue, or that their prospects for earning money from the ads in the future have been diminished, Facebook says.

The users do not "allege that their social actions - much less their names and profile pictures - actually have any such value," the motion to dismiss states. "And, in any event, courts have repeatedly found that this type of generic allegation of value does not confer standing, because the use of demographic information has 'never been considered a[n] economic loss to the subject.'"

The fact that Facebook earns revenues from ads "does not mean plaintiffs suffered a cognizable injury to their interest in their names or likenesses," Facebook says.

The users claim that the ads at issue violate the Illinois Right of Publicity Act, which requires companies to obtain a person's consent before using his name and photo in endorsements. The teens say that even if they consented to Facebook's use of their names and photographs for advertisements, they lacked the capacity to legally do so because they are minors.

Facebook contends, however, that the teen users cannot seek relief under the Illinois statute as they agreed under the terms of use that all claims arising out of their use of Facebook would be governed by California law.

Facebook also argues that "the mere alleged violation of a statute is not sufficient, without an allegation that the plaintiff also suffered a concrete injury-in-fact."

The users are also attempting to argue that Facebook's terms of service - known as the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) - should be invalidated.

U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy in Illinois already ruled in his transfer order, however, that the SRR is enforceable. The users, therefore, cannot relitigate this claim, Facebook says.

Facebook also points out that the teen users have received and continue to receive the benefits of Facebook.

"Plaintiffs have been unable to allege any cognizable claims, after having had many chances to do so," the social networking website's motion states. "Their claims should now be dismissed with prejudice."

The plaintiffs are C.M.D. by his next friend Jennifer DeYong; T.A.B. by her next friend Patricia Isaak; H.E.W. and B.A.W. by their next friend Jami Lemons; A.D.Y. and R.P.Y. by their next friend Robert Young Jr.; and R.R.C., by her next friend Robyn Courtway.

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