Back in September, Philly Mag’s Victor Fiorillo reported on a 10 million dollar lawsuit Karen Hepp filed against Facebook, Reddit, and other sites, claiming that a photograph of her was being used in ads for erectile dysfunction, a dating app, and a porn site. The photo was reportedly taken without her permission via surveillance camera at a New York grocery store.
Fast forward to February, and Fiorillo has an update, explaining that Facebook lawyers are arguing, in simple terms, that they can’t be held liable for third party actions:
Hepp’s suit invokes a Pennsylvania law known as right of publicity. That law says that a business is not allowed to take the name or likeness of a person who has clear commercial value and use it for commercial purposes without that person’s permission.
The right of publicity law would seem to cover this, right? Not so fast, says Facebook.
On Monday, attorneys representing the impenetrable social media behemoth filed a motion to dismiss the case against the company. The motion claims, in part, that the 1996 Communications Decency Act (CDA) renders Facebook immune to any legal action against it involving content others have placed there.
“Facebook’s decision to allow the advertisement on its platform is a quintessential internet service provider function, which is the very activity the CDA is aimed to protect,” lawyers for Facebook stated in their motion.
There’s some legalese in the story, but if you parse it down, Facebook is basically saying that somebody else put this shit on their site. They aren’t the ones who put it there. You’d have to hold those people liable, the ones who took Karen Hepp’s picture without her permission and then used it for dating and erectile dysfunction ads.
The wrinkle here is that Hepp is a public figure, a FOX 29 anchor, and not some random schmo like you or me. Her lawyer is basically arguing, according to Fiorillo, that her reputation and brand are based on her image. We can all understand why it would be damaging for her photo to show up in the “MILF” section of a porno site.
You can read Fiorillo’s full story here: Facebook Calls B.S. On Karen Hepp’s $10 Million Lawsuit Against the Company
A lawyer popped into the DMs and mentioned this:
“finding the proprietors of all of those shady sites/ads would probably be impossible and many of them are likely foreign, which makes bringing them to court here impossible”