Privacy Lawsuit Alleges Classmates.com Misappropriates Names, Photos of Calif. Residents Without Permission
Callahan et al. v. PeopleConnect, Inc. et al.
Filed: December 18, 2020 ◆§ 3:20-cv-09203
A class action claims Classmates.com has "misappropriated" the names, photos and likenesses of California residents without securing consent to do so.
PeopleConnect, Inc. and Classmates Media Corporation face a proposed class action that alleges the companies have knowingly misappropriated the names, photos and likenesses of possibly millions of California residents without permission to advertise and profit from Classmates.com.
The 32-page lawsuit alleges the defendants have “not received consent from, given notice to, or provided compensation to” millions of Californians whose names, photos and biographical information appear on the class-member and colleague social networking website or in reprinted yearbooks.
According to the case, PeopleConnect and Classmates have violated Californians’ legal rights that protect the exclusive use of their likenesses and their right to seclusion while reaping “ill-gotten profits” in the process.
Classmates’ business model relies on the extraction of personal information from school yearbooks, the suit begins. With that identifying information in hand, the company aggregates the data into digital records that identify specific individuals by name, photograph and other personal details, and stores the records in its online database, the case says.
While some information is free to access, a tactic the suit says drives users toward the defendants’ paid products, reprinted yearbooks retail for up to $99.95, and a monthly Classmates.com subscription sells for up to $3 per month, according to the complaint. Per the case, Classmates.com relays it contains records copied from “over 400 thousand yearbooks.”
The lawsuit notes that while Classmates does not disclose how it created its Yearbook Collection, a section on the website encourages users to donate old yearbooks to the company. With the exception of the implied consent of the donor, who may or may not personally appear in a donated yearbook, Classmates “makes no attempt to contact or gain the consent” or those who appear in a donated yearbook, the case alleges.
As the complaint tells it, the “vast majority” of people whose personal information is possessed by Classmates have no business relationship with the company.
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