Class-Action Lawsuit Against Ancestry.com Regarding Yearbook Photos Dismissed

The Northern District of California on Tuesday dismissed a prejudiced class action lawsuit against Ancestry.com, ruling that the company’s use of yearbook photos did no harm to those depicted in the yearbook.

The court found that the plaintiffs were not awarded Article III because they had not suffered “specific” injuries or harm. The submission determined that Ancestry’s benefit from using these images did not result in “injury”.

Judge Beeler dismissed the first amended complaint, noting that the amendments “did not change the analysis in the court’s earlier order”. This occurs after Ancestry’s successful motion to dismiss the complaint and its response, which is directed to dismiss the first amended complaint.

In addition, the court found that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act grants Ancestry immunity because it “publishes third party content made available for publication” and clearly not the original content creator of the yearbooks that were the focus of the case. Therefore, the application was dismissed as neither of these two components could be proven to set aside the previous judgment of the Court of Justice.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed on December 1, 2020 when plaintiffs discovered that their high school yearbooks had been used in Ancestry’s databases and for promotional materials. Plaintiffs alleged that Ancestry “knowingly misused the photos, likeness, names and identities of the plaintiffs and the group”. Plaintiffs sued for violations of the California Right to Publish, the California Unfair Competition Act, the California Common Laws to Protect Against Intrusion on Seclusion, and the California Unjust Enrichment Law, alleging that Ancestry had no immunity under the Communications Decency Act.

The plaintiffs are represented by Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group and Benjamin R. Osborn.

Ancestry.com is represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP.

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