Classmates Use of Names and Likenesses to Sell Products Illinois Class Action

Some companies now offer images from the past and information that others may be willing to pay for—for example, Classmates Media Corporation and its parent company, PeopleConnect, Inc., who own the website www.classmates.com. The complaint alleges that the companies are breaking the law by using the information and likenesses of others without permission for commercial purposes.

The class for this action is all Illinois residents who have appeared in an ad preview for a product of Classmates.

According to the complaint, Classmates pulls information and photographs from yearbooks, assembles them into records that it stores in online databases, and provides free access to some of them. The free access, the complaint says, is used to get people to pay for other thing: “reprinted yearbooks that retail for up to $99.95, and a monthly subscription to Classmates.com that retails for up to $3 per month” and “page views from non-paying users, from which Classmates profits by selling ad space on its website.”

Visitors to the websites may enter information for a school and get a list of search results. These results provide a kind of preview of what users can get with Classmates services.

The complaint shows the school picture and name of the plaintiff for this action, Theresa Loendorf, which it claims is available as part of one such preview.

The complaint alleges, “The purpose behind Classmates’ free preview is singular: to entice users to purchase [Classmates’s] services.” It shows screenshots to demonstrate this, with one box suggesting, “Order a Hardcover Reprint…” and another, “Join for free to view full-size yearbooks.” A further screenshot shows the access offers, including plans for three months, one year, and two years.

The complaint alleges, “Classmates thus uses the identities of Plaintiff and the putative class to market its completely unrelated subscription services.”

It then quotes from the Illinois Right of Privacy Act (IRPA): “A person may not use an individual’s identity for commercial purposes during the individual’s lifetime without having obtained previous written consent from the appropriate person or persons.”

Loendorf has no relationship with Classmates. She has never provided Classmates with consent to use her name and image, and the complaint alleges that neither have the others whose images are shown to induce visitors to pay for Classmates for-profit services.

According to the complaint, “It would be simple for Classmates to maintain their business model while complying with state law. For example, Classmates could sell [Loendorf’s] information on an individual basis without using her identity to advertise its subscription service.”

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Privacy

Most Recent Case Event

Classmates Use of Names and Likenesses to Sell Products Illinois Complaint

February 2, 2021

Some companies now offer images from the past and information that others may be willing to pay for—for example, Classmates Media Corporation and its parent company, PeopleConnect, Inc., who own the website www.classmates.com. The complaint alleges that the companies are breaking the law by using the information and likenesses of others without permission for commercial purposes.

Classmates Use of Names and Likenesses to Sell Products Illinois Complaint

Case Event History

Classmates Use of Names and Likenesses to Sell Products Illinois Complaint

February 2, 2021

Some companies now offer images from the past and information that others may be willing to pay for—for example, Classmates Media Corporation and its parent company, PeopleConnect, Inc., who own the website www.classmates.com. The complaint alleges that the companies are breaking the law by using the information and likenesses of others without permission for commercial purposes.

Classmates Use of Names and Likenesses to Sell Products Illinois Complaint
Tags: Using Your Picture For Commercial Gain, Using Your Private Information Without Consent, Your Privacy