PeopleConnect, Inc. has unlawfully used Indiana residents’ photographs and personal information without their consent to promote Classmates.com subscriptions and products, according to a proposed class action.
The 20-page lawsuit relays that when a consumer types in the name and location of an individual on Classmates.com, a website operated by PeopleConnect that sells yearbook reprints and subscriptions to an online yearbook database, they are shown a list of low-resolution photographs of the people who supposedly match the searched name. Those who click on the pictures are shown advertisements for Classmates.com’s subscription services or yearbook reprints, according to the case.
The suit alleges, however, that many of the subjects who appear in these photographs have not given the defendant permission to use their personalities to advertise its products and services. According to the case, PeopleConnect’s use of consumers’ information without their consent is a violation of the Indiana Right of Publicity Act.
“Plaintiff and the Class have the right not to have their personalities exploited to promote a product with which they have no relationship and no interest in supporting,” the complaint reads. “Plaintiff and the Class have an economic interest in their personalities, which Classmates has stolen, and a privacy interest in their personalities, which Classmates has violated.”
According to the case, Classmates uses consumers’ photographs for advertisement purposes in three ways. If a website visitor clicks on one of the low-resolution pictures displayed by Classmates, they are shown two pop-up messages asking them to register as members with Classmates.com for $3 per month, the suit relays. Those who attempt to view more than two photographs are shown a pop-up message asking them to purchase a yearbook reprint for $99.95, according to the complaint.
Third, Classmates.com allegedly displays messages next to the list of photographs asking viewers to purchase a subscription to the site for “as low as $1.23 a month.”
The case claims, however, that many of the individuals who appear in the photographs, most of whom were minor children at the time the pictures were taken, have no relationship with Classmates and never consented for their photographs as children to be used for advertising purposes.
The lawsuit stresses that consent “is not all or nothing,” and that the individuals whose pictures appear on Classmates.com were initially under the impression that their photos would be used “solely for print distribution among a narrow circle of friends, family, and schoolmates.”
“Plaintiff and the Class did not consent to the commercial use of their photographs to promote a website, nor to the worldwide distribution of their photographs on the Internet,” the complaint attests.
The case goes on to claim that the defendant has not provided a way for consumers to request that their photographs and personal information be removed from Classmates.com or a means by which to opt out of the use of their photographs for advertising purposes.
The plaintiff, an Indiana resident, claims to have never provided his consent for Classmates to use his photograph, likeness, name or personality “in any way,” and would not have provided his consent if Classmates had requested it. Nevertheless, the suit alleges, the plaintiff’s face is “plainly visible and identifiable” in photographs that appear on Classmates.com, accompanied by his name, city of residence and high school.
The lawsuit alleges the defendant has harmed the plaintiff and proposed class members by using their intellectual property without compensation, invading their privacy rights and unlawfully profiting from the exploitation of their personal information.
The plaintiff looks to represent Indiana residents who are not Classmates.com subscribers and whose names, photographs or personal information was extracted from yearbooks by Classmates and used in the yearbook database used to promote its products.
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