Were texts about Stephen King novel against the law?

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Stephen King's apocalyptic horror novel Cell told of a signal sent out to cell phones that turned all who heard it into homicidal monsters. Now a different sort of cell phone message has gotten King's book publisher, Simon & Schuster, embroiled in a horror story that's far more frightening that fiction—one involving the legal system.

An appellate court ruled Friday that Simon & Schuster might have violated federal law by allegedly sending unsolicited text messages promoting Cell, Online Media Daily reported.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that sending SMS messages potentially violates the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits companies from using automatic telephone dialing systems to make calls to cell phones unless the owners have consented.

New York resident Laci Satterfield filed a class-action lawsuit against Simon & Schuster and mobile marketing firm ipsh! in 2006. According to the court ruling, Satterfield had signed up for a free ringtone service from Nextones at the request of her son. As part of the enrollment process, she agreed to receive promotions from Nextones affiliates and brands. After registering for this service, she received an unsolicited text message inviting her to join the "Stephen King VIP Mobile Club" and directing her to

She alleged that this message violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act's ban on using automated dialing systems to reach wireless devices. She sought class-action status and a minimum of $500 damages per incident for each cell phone customer. Simon & Schuster argued that the text messages weren't covered by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and that Satterfield had consented to receive the ads. Friday, the 9th Circuit ruled against the book publisher on both points.

We here at SCI FI Wire never claimed to be lawyers, so if you're looking for further analysis, we suggest you visit Online Media Daily.