Fraley v. Facebook, Inc.
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
830 F. Supp. 2d 785 (2011)
Facebook, Inc. (defendant) operated a social-networking website. Facebook generated revenue through the sale of advertising targeted at its users. One advertising method was known as Sponsored Stories. When a user clicked the “like” button on an advertiser’s Facebook page, a Sponsored Story would appear on that user’s friends’ Facebook home page. The friends would see the user’s name, profile picture, and a statement that the user “liked” the advertiser. Angel Fraley (plaintiff) was a Facebook user. Fraley sued Facebook, arguing that the Sponsored Stories were a misappropriation of users’ names and likenesses for commercial endorsement without their consent. Thus, Fraley claimed that the Sponsored Stories violated Facebook users’ publicity rights under state law. Fraley also argued that merely clicking the “like” button is not necessarily an expression of consumer interest. Facebook moved to dismiss the publicity-violation claim. Facebook argued that its users consent to the use of their names and likenesses. Facebook also argued that users like Fraley are public figures to their friends, and public figures have less publicity rights. Finally, Facebook argued that expressions of consumer opinion and consumer interest are generally newsworthy and, therefore, using them does not violate the consumer’s publicity rights.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Koh, J.)
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