On October 30, 2015, Facebook, Inc. posted an important win in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a non-precedential decision, the court upheld the federal district court’s dismissal of a complaint filed by a proposed class of minor Facebook users. The plaintiffs alleged that Facebook’s terms of use—specifically, a provision granting Facebook the right to use the plaintiffs’ names and likenesses—as applied to the proposed class, was void under California law. By ruling for Facebook, the Ninth Circuit’s stance in this case reminds us that courts will treat online terms and conditions as binding agreements between website owners and its users, and resolve disputes falling within such terms’ governance using traditional contract law principles.

In this case, the plaintiffs’ complaint sounded in statutory claims under the California Family Code (“CFC”). Among them was a claim for contract disaffirmance. Under CFC § 6710, a minor is entitled to disaffirm—that is, void—an agreement he or she was party to any time prior to reaching the age of majority or for a reasonable time thereafter. Facebook’s terms of use is a contract. Upon signing up for Facebook, users expressly agree to all of the contract’s provisions. What’s more, by continuing to use Facebook, users are constantly reaffirming their acceptance of the terms of use, even when such terms are amended.

So, the question at issue here, was whether the plaintiffs’ validly disaffirmed their agreement with Facebook so as to preclude the social media company from using their names and likenesses.

The appellate court, citing Babu v. Petersen—a California Supreme Court decision authored in 1935—chose to resolve this dispute with reference to a general rule of equity: “a party cannot apply to his own use that part of the transaction which may bring to him a benefit, and repudiate the other, which may not be to his interest to fulfill.” Applied to the case at bar, the court decided, statutory disaffirmance under CFC § 6710 cannot cut against the “longstanding and general rule of California” contract law established in Babu.

The court’s point was this: minors, despite having a right of disaffirmance under California law, must express intent to disaffirm the entire agreement, not just hand-selected provisions—here, the term granting Facebook the right to use their names and likenesses. The plaintiffs continued use of Facebook showed a willingness to accept some benefits of the agreement, not a desire to void it in its entirety. It is principally for that reason why dismissal of the plaintiffs’ case was affirmed on appeal.