Ancestry.com Prevails in Yearbook Database Class Action
This week, Ancestry.com Inc. prevailed in a class action which alleged that it misappropriated consumers’ images and violated their privacy by using such data to solicit and sell their services and products. The court granted Ancestry.com’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint with prejudice because the plaintiffs “did not cure the complaint’s deficiencies” after being granted leave to amend the first complaint.
As we previously wrote in November 2020, Ancestry.com was hit with a class action in the Northern District of California for “knowingly misappropriating the photographs, likenesses, names, and identities of Plaintiff and the class; knowingly using those photographs, likenesses, names, and identities for the commercial purpose of selling access to them in Ancestry products and services; and knowingly using those photographs, likenesses, names and identities to advertise, sell and solicit purchases of Ancestry services and products; without obtaining prior consent from Plaintiffs and the class.” In March 2021, the court dismissed the lawsuit based on lack of standing, but allowed the plaintiffs to amend and address the deficiencies. Although the plaintiffs added allegations of emotional harm, lost time, and theft of intellectual property, that didn’t sway the court. U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler said that the new allegations “do not change the analysis in this court’s earlier order.” The court held that the plaintiffs still did not establish Article III standing because they had not alleged a concrete injury.
Additionally, the court noted that even if standing were established, Ancestry.com is immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) because it is not a content creator. Magistrate Beeler said that Ancestry.com “obviously did not create the yearbooks [. . .] [i]nstead, it necessarily used information provided by another information content provider and is immune under [the CDA].”