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Instagram Usernames Throw Off Class Action Against Groupon

March 5, 2019, 4:06 PM

Groupon Inc. users can’t sue the company as a class for using their Instagram images without consent, a federal court said March 4.

Identifying users by their Instagram usernames is too complicated to do on a classwide basis, Judge Ronald A. Guzmán wrote for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Christine Dancel, who went by the username “meowchristine,” sued Groupon in state court on behalf of Illinois residents. Dancel took a picture of herself and her boyfriend at a restaurant and posted it to Instagram tagged with the restaurant’s name. Groupon posted the photo and others on the restaurant’s Deal Page, she alleges.

Groupon used her Instagram picture without her consent in violation of the Illinois Right to Publicity Act, Dancel says.

The IRPA bars the use of “an individual’s identity for commercial purposes during the individual’s lifetime without having obtained previous written consent from the appropriate person.”

Groupon argued that deciding whether a particular Instagram username constitutes an “identity” under the act presents an individualized question of fact specific to each class member.

The court agreed. “To establish identity under the IRPA, putative class members would have to show that they were identified to a reasonable audience by the defendant’s use of his or her name or likeness,” the court said.

“It is simply impossible to make any type of across-the-board determination as to whether these names ‘identify’ a particular person, as that term is defined by the IRPA,” the court said.

Edelson P.C. represented the consumers.

Novack and Macey LLP represented Groupon.

The case is Dancel v. Groupon, Inc., 2019 BL 71832, N.D. Ill., No. 18-2027, 3/4/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at pcooper@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com