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Judge Rules Against LinkedIn

TMCnet Feature

June 16, 2014

Judge Rules Against LinkedIn

By Frank Griffin
TMCnet Contributing Writer

Lawsuits are part of the business landscape, and no matter how frivolous the claim might be, there will be a lawyer that will take up the cause, especially if there is a potential for a class-action suit. Unfortunately for LinkedIn (News - Alert), it is now part of a class-action lawsuit after U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif. denied the company's attempt to have its case dismissed. It now means LinkedIn users can move forward to have their grievances heard regarding the spams the company sent to their email contacts to join the site.

The case stems from LinkedIn's effort to email contacts of its members by accessing their address book. Once users give LinkedIn access to their Google (News - Alert), Yahoo Mail or others, it sent an email invitation. The email was personalized with the name of the user that gave the company permission to access their contacts, making it seem like it actually came from them.

This not only happened once, but three times, which led Judge Koh to write in her ruling, "Nothing in LinkedIn's disclosures alerts users to the possibility that their contacts will receive not just one invitation, but three."

According to the judge, by stating the following in its disclosure, "We will not . . . email anyone without your permission, LinkedIn may have actively led users astray."

The suit alleges the company benefited by signing up more users, and according to the California common law right of publicity, the repeated attempts violated this law. The law as it is written clearly states:

"Any person who knowingly uses another's name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of products, merchandise, goods or services, without such person's prior consent, or, in the case of a minor, the prior consent of his parent or legal guardian, shall be liable for any damages sustained by the person or persons injured as a result thereof."

Judge Koh added, "The Court notes that this type of injury, using an individual's name for personalized marketing purposes, is precisely the type of harm that California's common law right of publicity is geared toward preventing."

Not all the rulings went against LinkedIn, the Judge sided with the company in dismissing all other claims in the lawsuit, which included hacking and violation of federal wiretap laws.

LinkedIn said it plans to contest the remaining claim and continue to fight because they believe the suit has no merit. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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