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John Wilson, et al. v. Ancestry.com, et al.
Case Number: 2:22-CV-861
Judge: Edmund A. Sargus, jr.
Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ( County)
Defendant's Attorney: Christina Aide Henriquez, Jennifer A. L. Battle, John Wall Baumann, Shon Morgan
Description: Columbus, Ohio personal injury lawyers represented Plaintiffs, who sued Defendants on wrongfully used personal information about them to advertising without their permission.
On February 21, 2022, Plaintiff John Wilson, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, filed this putative class action alleging that Ancestry, which owns www.ancestry.com, used Wilson and the proposed class members' names and personas to promote paid subscriptions to the Ancestry website without their consent. (Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1.) According to the Complaint, a paid subscription to Ancestry.com provides subscribers with access to a wide range of services, such as access to Wilson and the putative class members' yearbook photos, personal information, and more than 18 billion records worldwide, as well as multiple tools that allow users to “[g]row a family tree.” (Id. at ¶ 10.)
Wilson identifies three advertising techniques in which Ancestry, without Wilson's consent, uses his persona to encourage viewers to subscribe to Ancestry's services. First, via Ancestry's publicly accessible landing page, any visitor may search for any person by name and location. (Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1.) Upon returning a search for Wilson or any proposed class member, Ancestry retrieves a list of corresponding yearbook photographs accompanied by promotional text urging the visitor to “Sign Up Now” for a subscription. (Id.) The promotional text further encourages purchase of a subscription by promising that “There's more to see” about the searched individual, including higher-resolution photographs and additional personal information, such as the individual's city of residence, estimated age, and high school graduation year. (Id.)
As for the second advertising technique, Ancestry sends promotional emails and onsite messages to users who have not yet subscribed and who may be related to Wilson or a proposed class member. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 38.) Wilson alleges that these emails and messages use his and the proposed class members' names and identities, referencing one promotional email with the subject line “What should you explore next for [proposed class member]?” (Id.) The body of the email provides a link, and if the recipient follows the link, he or she is taken to a webpage asking him or her to subscribe to Ancestry.com. (Id.)
In the third advertising technique, Ancestry allows users to enroll in a two-week free trial membership during which users have full access to Ancestry's services. (Id. at ¶ 8.) These users may search for, view, print, and share Wilson and other proposed class members' personal information. (Id.) As alleged, Ancestry's “sole purpose” in granting free-trial users access to Wilson and the proposed class members' personal information is to solicit the purchase of paid memberships. (Id.)
Wilson is a resident of Morgan County, Ohio. (Id. at ¶ 26.) He is not a subscriber to any of Ancestry's products or services, nor has he ever visited Ancestry.com. (Id. at ¶ 27.) Ancestry uses at least two photographs depicting Wilson to advertise subscriptions to Ancestry.com. (Id. at ¶ 32.) In all three advertising techniques detailed above, Ancestry uses Wilson's name and photograph. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-39.) Wilson did not give consent to Ancestry to use his name, photograph, likeness, or persona in any way. (Id. at ¶ 30.)
Wilson brings this putative class action against Ancestry alleging (1) misappropriation of his and the putative class members' personas in violation of Ohio's right of publicity statute, Ohio Rev. Code § 2741, and (2) invasion of privacy by means of appropriation under Ohio common law.(Id. at ¶¶ 55-66.)...
Outcome: Defendants' motion to dismiss denied.