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Magazine publishers face lawsuits in Michigan

Time Inc., the company that publishes People, is facing a lawsuit that is the latest in a string of Michigan-based legal actions between subscribers and media companies. The lawsuits are stemming from claims that the media companies are divulging subscriber information without consent as required by state law.

Michigan's Preservation of Personal Privacy Act prevents publishers from disclosing certain information to data mining companies. The protection, however, might be limited to subscribers who purchased directly from the publisher. Time Inc. won a previous similar case via summary judgement because the subscriber filing the lawsuit had purchased relevant subscription through a third-party vendor.

A spokesperson for Time Inc. says that the company will fight the case. Other publishers have settled cases in the state in recent months and years, and several others appear poised to do so. One previous case involved a class-action settlement from Meredith, a publisher who agreed not to disclose information for subscribers for at least four without written consent.

While Time Inc. cited its previous win as one reason it will fight the current lawsuit, a lawyer for the plaintiff pointed out a critical difference in the two cases. The most recent plaintiff purchased a subscription directly from Time Inc., says the attorney, which is a different scenario than purchasing from a third party.

While these cases deal with a specific element of state law, they illustrate the important of abiding by privacy laws. In an environment where privacy is important to consumers, and so seemingly fragile, other organizations should not be surprised to deal with privacy-related litigation in the future. Working with a legal team who is experienced in business litigation can help reduce the impact of such actions on an enterprise.

Source: Advertising Age, "Time Inc. Says It Will Fight Michigan Suit Over Sharing Subscriber Data," Jeremy Barr, April 01, 2016

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