Web users who bring privacy lawsuits against online companies often face an almost insurmountable hurdle -- proving monetary damages.
That's because consumers typically can't sue in federal court without proof of tangible harm. In fact, many recent privacy cases against Web companies hit roadblocks because consumers weren't able to show how they were harmed by the collection of data about them.
Now, a group of consumers who are suing Hipster for allegedly uploading their address books are trying to prove damages through a new strategy: They are accusing the company of infringing copyright.
The consumers recently filed an amended complaint that includes allegations that they owned the copyrights to their contacts, which Hipster allegedly uploaded to its servers. “When Hipster stole their contact address book without notice, and without fair or adequate compensation, users were deprived of value that their creative work embodied,” they allege in their latest legal papers, quietly filed last month in federal court in San Francisco.
The users -- Franciso Espitia, Vanessa Zendejas and Joe Sanchez Fraire -- say they believe the value of their copyright amounts to at least $5. The users aren't technically suing for copyright infringement; they're instead trying to buttress their privacy claims by saying that their copyrighted material was taken from them.But the gambit, while creative, isn't likely to succeed, according to legal experts. “The copyright assertion is completely and unambiguously bogus,” Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman tells MediaPost. That's because purely factual information, like names and phone numbers, can't be copyrighted.