from the false-endorsement dept
The internet sure makes things tricky sometimes. A married woman named Anne Read Lattimore is suing a photographer and two websites
concerning a photograph. Apparently a salon hired a photographer named Roger Kirby to help create a website. As part of this, Kirby photographed Lattimore after she got a haircut from the salon. No documents were signed, but Lattimore apparently gave permission to use the photo on the salon's website. Kirby went further and uploaded the image to Stock.xchng, the free stock photo site owned by Getty Images. From there a few others downloaded and used it -- including Match.com, who used her image in ads on Facebook, implying she was a member. As you might guess, this became problematic when people who knew Lattimore -- who, once again, is married -- saw her picture and were confused about her use of Match.com. In addition, she's suing another site, HealthCentral, which used her photo in a story about coming out as a homosexual. Lattimore notes that she is neither a homosexual, nor has she come out, as the article and photo imply.
It seems like her real complaint is with the photographer who uploaded the images, and suggested they were free and available for a variety of uses. While the license on the stock photo site did say the image could not be used to endorse a product, it's difficult to see how Match.com or HealthCentral could have reasonably known that the photo was of someone who didn't want it used at all. It seems like attaching liability to those sites would open up huge potential liability for third parties using stock images. Of course, you could argue that such sites shouldn't use stock images in the first place, but that's a separate issue beyond the legal questions. In this case, though, she's alleging both defamation and misappropriation of likeness. The law may be on her side concerning the defamation claim (that may depend on the specific state law), but I do worry about the implications if that's the case.