Experience. Creativity. Legal Muscle.

Ancestry.Com Sued for Allegedly Using Personal Information Without Consent

by | Feb 1, 2021 | Firm News

Two class action complaints have been filed against Ancestry.com in Illinois and in California, alleging that Ancestry.com used people’s names, likenesses, photos, and identities, without their consent. Sergio Bonilla v. Ancestry.com Operations Inc., Case No. 1:20-cv-07390 (N.D. Ill.); Callahan v. Ancestry.com Operations Inc., Case No. 3:20-cv-08437 (N.D. Cal.).

In particular, the lawsuits focus on Ancestry.com’s database of “U.S. School Yearbooks 1990-1999,” which contains personal information including childhood photographs, without consent. Ancestry.com charges between $24.99 and $44.99 per month to give subscribers access to its databases, including the Yearbooks database.

These lawsuits are based on laws designed to protect Illinois and California residents. Ohio has similar laws, which make it unlawful to use someone’s name, likeness, photograph, or other personal aspects without their consent for a commercial purpose, such as advertising or marketing.


Did you know that all Ohio residents have a right to publicity in their persona? Ohio law defines a “persona” as an individual’s name, voice, signature, photograph, image, likeness, or appearance. See R.C. 2741.01.

It is unlawful to use an Ohio resident’s persona without their written consent in connection with a product or service or to advertise, market, or promote a product or service. See R.C. 2741.02.

Who has a right to publicity in the persona of someone no longer living?

Typically, following the death of an Ohio resident, it remains unlawful to use their persona for commercial purposes within 60 years after their death. See R.C. 2741.02(A). Following death, the right of publicity in a person’s persona will transfer to their heirs unless prior to death the person transferred the rights in their persona to someone else. See R.C. 2741.04.

What are my rights if someone uses my persona without my written consent?

You have the right to file a lawsuit. See R.C. 2741.06. If successful, you will be able to choose to receive actual damages, which means all of the profits derived from and attributable to the use of the persona; or, you can choose to receive statutory damages, which will be an amount of money between $2,500 and $10,000. See R.C. 2741.07.

In addition, you may be entitled to:

  • A court order that the person or entity using the persona must stop;
  • Money to pay for your attorneys’ fees and costs; and
  • Additional money to punish the person or entity that used the persona without your consent.

What should I do if someone used my persona without my written consent?

Contact an attorney to learn more about your rights. If the persona of you or a loved one was used for commercial purposes without consent and you would like to have a free and confidential consultation with an attorney, please contact Markovits, Stock & DeMarco at (513) 651-3700 or [email protected].


Disclaimer: This post is not legal advice and does not in any way create an attorney-client relationship between you and any attorneys at Markovits, Stock & DeMarco.