Twentieth Century Fox potentially violated federal law by allegedly sending consumers unsolicited text messages marketing DVDs of the film "Robots," a federal judge has ruled.
In a decision issued last week, U.S. District Court Judge Amy J. St. Eve in the northern district of Illinois ruled that sending unsolicited SMS messages can violate the 19-year-old Telephone Consumer Protection Act -- even if recipients aren't charged for the messages.
"Contrary to defendants' position," the judge wrote, "the plain language of the [Telephone Consumer Protection Act] does not require plaintiff to allege that he was charged for receipt of the text message."
The decision stemmed from a potential class-action lawsuit filed last September by Illinois resident Victor Lozano. He alleged that starting in 2005, Fox sent him "wireless spam" urging him to purchase the "Robots" DVD at FoxStore.com.
Fox unsuccessfully argued that the case should be dismissed at a preliminary stage. The company asserted that the 19-year-old Telephone Consumer Protection Act -- which bans the use of automated dialing systems to reach wireless devices -- doesn't apply to text messages. In addition, Fox argued that Lozano has no grounds to sue because he doesn't allege that he was charged for the messages.
The trial judge rejected both of those arguments. While the ruling doesn't mean that Lozano ultimately will win the case, the decision allows him to continue with the litigation.
That outcome is in line with a decision last year by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the book publisher Simon & Schuster might have violated federal law by allegedly sending unsolicited text messages promoting Stephen King's "Cell."