Over the past month e-mails have been going out to millions of Facebook users about a litigation settlement against the company. This e-mail, though rather confusing and SPAMmy, is actually legit. If you got one, you could be entitled to receive some money from the settlement — but you’ll have to do some work. We took time off from posting status updates and tweeting to read the fine print on the settlement website and help you get some cash.
Wait, what’s this all about?
The e-mail and site that it links to are vague over what exactly the lawsuit is about, but we looked at the court documents and found that it all relates to their using your image and name in advertising. Remember when you could first start “liking” commercial products (like, say, Axe Body Spray)? If Facebook had a deal with Axe, they would publish your photo in your friend’s timeline and reveal you like douchey men’s body products. Revealing that embarrassing secret alone isn’t grounds for a lawsuit, but Facebook receiving money for it is. Using your face to push products without your permission is illegal.
So is Facebook going to jail?
Er, no. This is a class action lawsuit three people have filed against Facebook on behalf of everyone who has had their likeness used in this manner. Facebook, rather than go through an entire trial and look like huge jerks, have decided to settle out of court for $20 million and admit no wrongdoing in the process.
$20 million?! Holy hell, break out the Cristal and Fabergé Eggs!
Not so fast. Your share is going to be pretty small by the time it gets to you, if it ever does. First, according to the settlement FAQ, the filers’ lawyer’s fees need to be payed, which could top $7 million (you chose the wrong career). Then the people who brought the suit are requesting $12,500 each for themselves, which I guess is fair since they did all the work. Then the people processing the claim get their cut. Then and only then does the remainder of the money get split up amongst the millions of people who liked something before December of last year.
Oh. Well, I guess $10 isn’t so bad for pressing a button.
Here’s the thing: you could receive up to $10. If it is “economically unfeasible” to split up the rest of the money (as in, if everyone’s share is twelve cents), then all of that remaining cash goes to some BS non-profit that helps old people figure out social networking. Of course, this is all contingent on the court actually approving the settlement.
Old people can’t learn! I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS SETTLEMENT!
You’re in luck. You can file a written protest or even attend the fairness hearing and voice your objection to the settlement agreement. If enough people complain, the judge might not approve it and Facebook will either cough up more dough or go to trial.
If you’re feeling particularly industrious and litigious, you can opt out of the settlement and sue Facebook yourself. This is really, really risky. If Facebook does end up settling, they’ll be very adverse to losing any more money on this issue. Their hoard of corporate
jackals lawyers will keep your suit in limbo, bleeding you dry until the court inevitably rules against you because you were stupid enough to opt out of the initial settlement. And then under California law you’ll be liable for Facebook’s attorney fees which will be likely in the millions and you’ll wind up in a subbasement of Facebook turning a wheel for Mark Zuckerberg.
We know that feeling, bro. You might as well fill out these documents before May 2nd to claim your share and hope for the best. If you do receive some cash, make sure your tell the IRS about it. And stop liking Axe on Facebook.
Conal Darcy is not a lawyer, but he plays one on Twitter.