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Disgruntled Facebook Users vs. Sponsored Stories

As you may recall, early last year, California introduced Bill 1411 known as the Online Impersonation Law.  We explored this recent law previously in Online Impersonation: Should New California Law Incorporate Brands?

Well twelve months later, Bill 1411 is making headlines again.  But this time, there is an offender involved: Facebook and its Sponsored Stories.  

You have likely seen Facebook’s Sponsored Stories dozens, if not hundreds of times.  Like California’s E-Personation Law, the customized ads were introduced last January.   The small, paid ads appear on the right sidebar of a Facebook users’ home screen.   They show a small profile picture of a friend who likes a brand’s page and indirectly encourages the user to like it too.     

Some users may think these ads are fun, but others are discontent knowing their profile pictures could show up just about anywhere.  The plaintiffs claim that “it’s an unauthorized use of their names and likenesses and that they deserve compensation.”

On December 16, 2011, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh rejected Facebook’s bid to dismiss the case.  She said that plaintiffs may continue their claims stating that sponsored advertisements may indeed violate state law.  

As a quick refresher, Bill 1411 specifies that:

“Any person who knowingly uses another’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of, products, merchandise, goods or services, without such person’s prior consent, or, in the case of a minor, the prior consent of his parent or legal guardian, shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof.”

Facebook spokesperson, Andrew Noyes, says they believe the case is without merit.  

Up until this point in time, there has been no word on when the case will resume so we will have to stay tuned.  

We want to hear from you: do you think Facebook users deserve money for starring in personalized ads?