Law School Case Brief
C.M.D. v. Facebook, Inc. - No. C 12-1216 RS, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41371 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 26, 2014)
While contracts made by minors generally may be disaffirmed (or, are "voidable"), provided the conditions set out in Cal Fam Code § 6710 and following sections are met, the basic presumption is that minors do have the power to enter into binding contracts except as provided in Cal Fam Code § 6701. Under Cal Fam Code § 6701, a minor cannot do any of the following: (a) Give a delegation of power; (b) Make a contract relating to real property or any interest therein; (c) Make a contract relating to any personal property not in the immediate possession or control of the minor.
The action involved practices by which Facebook utilized the names and profile pictures of its users in ways that arguably constituted advertising for various third parties. The putative plaintiff class was composed solely of minors. Plaintiffs CMD et al. sought statutory damages for defendant Facebook's alleged commercial misappropriation of the names and likenesses of minors who utilized the Facebook social network website. Plaintiff minors contended consent provisions in Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRRs) were legally unenforceable as to the putative class of minors because they represented a type of contract into which a minor cannot legally enter and therefore void. On the other hand, Facebook made an issue regarding the standing of the plaintiff minors. Facebook argued that plaintiffs lacked Article III standing to bring the action, and that they failed to present facts showing they suffered any legally cognizable harm from the alleged conduct.
1. Did plaintiff minors have legal standing to sue defendant for commercial misappropriation of their names and likeness?
2. Were the consent provisions in the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities of Facebook legally unenforceable for being contracted with minors?
The court granted the motion to dismiss. The court held that the plaintiff minors had legal standing. The argument of Facebook that the Illinois statutory claims advanced by plaintiffs were not viable given the choice of law provisions of the SRRs had no merit. Standing to determine whether the Illinois law applied and was violated did not depend on the claim being proven meritorious in the end.
The court held that the plaintiff minors failed to prove that the consent provisions of the SRRs were unenforceable. The court observed that the plaintiffs' arguments largely flowed from an opposite, and incorrect presumption, that minors generally do not have the power to contract. The consent Facebook users gave for use of their names and profile pictures in certain ways on the site simply was not tantamount to appointing Facebook as an agent for users, or to delegating to it any power to be exercised on behalf of those users. Plaintiffs were not able to show how it would be a delegation of power within the meaning of the statute. Rather, Facebook users had simply granted Facebook the right to use their names in pictures in certain specified situations, in exchange for whatever benefits they may realize from using the Facebook site. The case did not also fall under Cal Fam Code § 6701(c) because it was directed at tangible property, which only rendered void certain contracts relating to such property. Regardless of exactly how the rights putative class members held in their names and profile pictures were labeled, they could not be fairly characterized as "personal property not in the immediate possession or control of the minor."
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