Dotdash Meredith has avoided a law judgment that could have affected a presumable source of revenue.
A federal court ruled on Monday that consumers who sued Meredith Corp. for renting their names out on mailing lists did not have a case because they had not suffered actual harm.
The plaintiffs had charged that Meredith violated their rights of publicity under several state laws. But they failed to establish “the first element of standing: injury-in-fact,” the court ruled.
The plaintiffs allege that Meredith “maintains a vast digital database” and that information on subscribers is disclosed to discloses its subscribers’ names “to data aggregators and appenders,” who provide Meredith with “supplemental information” about each subscriber.
But in granting Meredith’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger noted that they did not allege that their own names or addresses were actually sold to a third party.
“Nor do Plaintiffs allege they have ever seen their names on one of Meredith’s subscriber mailing lists,” the judge continued.
This seems to imply that publishers cannot be penalized simply because the subscribers’ names are on their lists. Rental email lists are now almost entirely permission-based.
Ebinger added that “asserted risk of future harm is not concrete harm.” That specifically applies to the hypothetical danger of being targeted by “bad actors who acquire their names from one of Meredith’s mailing lists.”
The initial complaint filed in 2021 pointed to NextMark listings of Meredith subscriber lists including that of Better Homes and Gardens, containing 3.6 million active subscribers for $115/M, with an email addresses select available for $65 per thousand.
The complaint argues that the practice of “monetizing its subscribers’ names and likenesses for commercial purposes without authorization” is unlawful.
Other legal issues could have come into play—for example, if Meredith rented out email addresses without allowing the consumers to opt out—a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. But this wasn’t alleged.
The plaintiffs were Joan Burke, Adele Hetzel, Maribel Ramirez, Belinda Powers, Sharon McKinney, Candyce Marto-Maedel, Norma Goldberger, and Julie Beach.
The case is on file with the U.S. District Court for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Central Division.