We've been talking a lot about the rise of "publicity rights,"
a new form of law often lumped into the "intellectual property" grouping. There are all sorts of problems with the concept of publicity rights and a bunch of them are highlighted in this new lawsuit, pointed out to us by Eric Goldman
. A class action lawsuit has been filed against Facebook based on the bizarre claim that Facebook's Friend Finder feature violates users' publicity rights. The lawsuit complains:
To promote the use of its Friend Finder service, Facebook has and continues to post the names and likenesses of a user's friends on that user's Facebook.com page, using words to the effect that the user's friends "found friends using Friend finder," suggesting that the user also "Give it a try!" The friends whose names and likeness are used to promote Friend Finder have not actually consented to use their names and likenesses to endorse Facebook's Friend Finder service, nor does Facebook disclose to such users that Facebook intended to use their name and likeness to promote the Friend Finder service to others.
Think about that for a second. This is, of course, the inevitable logical conclusion of ridiculous publicity rights claims. You would not be able to show (accurately) anyone who used a service without first getting their permission for it. That seems pretty ridiculous. I doubt this lawsuit will get anywhere, but if it actually does gain some traction, perhaps people will finally start to realize what a slippery slope publicity rights create.