If your kids use Facebook, are they bound by the online terms?
This question was recently reviewed in a US decision in which certain minor children, resident in Illinois, were users of facebook.com. They alleged that Facebook’s practice of misappropriating their names and likenesses for “commercial endorsements” without their consent was a violation of their privacy rights. Facebook resisted by invoking the “forum-selection” clause in its Terms of Service (TOS). That clause effectively punts all disputes into California, Facebook’s home turf. The Illinois court had to decide whether the case could proceed in Illinois, or whether the forum-selection clause dictated that the case must proceed in California.
In E.K.D. v. Facebook, Inc., 3:12-cv-01216-JCS (S.D. Ill. March 8, 2012), the Court concluded that the minors could not avoid the forum-selection clause in Facebook’s TOS. A mandatory forum-selection clause is, under US law, valid on its face, and should be enforced “unless enforcement is shown by the resisting party to be ‘unreasonable’ under the circumstances.” Canadian law is similar. However, the courts look at a number of factors in determining what they consider “reasonable”, and online vendors or licensors must take care if they want to ensure the clause will be upheld.