Court Dismisses Yearbook Photo Suit

On Monday, Judge Laurel Beeler of the Northern District of California issued an order granting’s (Ancestry) motion to dismiss the putative class action filed against it regarding their use of yearbook photographs and related information in its Yearbook Database.

The plaintiffs originally sued Ancestry in December 2020 for the alleged misappropriation of their yearbook photos and personal information without their consent, which Ancestry purportedly used for advertising and other promotional purposes. The plaintiffs averred that Ancestry violated California’s right to publicity, California Unfair Competition Law, California’s common law right protecting Intrusion upon Seclusion, and California Unjust Enrichment law. In January, Ancestry moved to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming the suit was “misguided” and the plaintiffs lack standing, and it was immune from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as well as a motion to strike. The plaintiffs filed an opposition to Ancestry’s motion to dismiss, alleging that Ancestry’s motions are based on misunderstandings of the plaintiffs’ allegations.

The court dismissed the claims, asserting that the plaintiffs “have not plausibly alleged standing,” noting that “(m)ore is needed – beyond Ancestry’s use of the data to solicit paying subscribers – such as an inference that the profiled persons personally endorsed Ancestry’s product (or an equivalent interest).” Therefore, since the plaintiffs purportedly did not establish injury, they do not have Article III standing. Additionally, Judge Beeler stated that since Ancestry “did not create the third-party content,” it is immune from liability under Section 230.

However, the court denied Ancestry’s motion to strike, arguing that the claims under California’s anti-SLAPP statute are denied because “Ancestry’s inclusion of the yearbook information is not a public issue.” The court found that the motion to strike for the remaining claims is otherwise moot.

The plaintiffs have 21 days to file an amended complaint.

The plaintiffs are represented by Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group as well as Benjamin R. Osborn. is represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP.