Scott Nastro, a resident of Brooklyn in New York city has filed a class action suit against social networking giant Facebook on behalf of his minor son. In JN v. Facebook, Inc., Civ.Action No. 11-cv-2128 (USDENY 2011), Nastro is citing the New York Civil Rights Law, which prohibits the use of a person’s picture for advertising purposes without their permission. In the case of minors, Nastro says that Facebook must obtain the consent of parents or guardians.
“In the course of using the names and likenesses of Facebook members in advertising, Facebook regularly and frequently includes the names and likenesses of minors without obtaining consent for that use,” reads the complaint. “Children are a large marketing audience, so that endorsements that include the names and likenesses of other children in advertisements and solicitations generate a great increase in the revenue and profits to Facebook.” The complaint goes on to state ”Facebook, Inc. appears to be continually seeking new ways to use the names and likenesses of its members, including children, for its own marketing purposes.”
The type of ads that the suit refers to are called social ads. A Facebook user indicates that he likes a product or service. Facebook then publishes an add on the side of the page which shows the person’s photo and promotes the product. These types of ads are a major source of income for Facebook. No special consent is sought from parents when minors choose these ads.
The lawsuit is based on a law found in many states which protects the rights of persons to protect the use of their name or image for commercial purposes. Typically these right of privacy laws require written consent for use of the image. In the case of minors, consent is usually required from the parent.
According to the Reuters report a Facebook spokesman responded to the suit in an e-mail “[w]e believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously.”