Married Woman Sues For Using Her Photo In Ads

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, 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 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 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.

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Comments on “Married Woman Sues For Using Her Photo In Ads”

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John Doe says:

You answered your own question

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 or HealthCentral could have reasonably known that the photo was of someone who didn’t want it used at all.

They used a photo from a site whose license says the photo can’t be used to endorse a product. That is how they could reasonably know that it was a photo of someone who didn’t want it used to endorse a product.

Michael says:

Ultimately, I think the photographer is the one who’s going to get it, I bet. He’s supposed to have a signed model release to put the photo up for commercial use, and he doesn’t. Sounds like he’s one of that new breed of “I have a camera I almost kow how to use, so I’m a professional photographer” people.

Vidiot (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

True, but the so-called “microstock” business model requires as little participation from the site operators as possible… basically, the submitter ticks a box to indicate they own all the rights and can assign them. Conventional, big-ticket stock houses are more likely to ask for releases. Microstock is always a buyer-beware sort of proposition.

JB says:

Isn’t this just blatant false advertising by though?
They are making a claim that this woman is a member of their site, when she isn’t. Regardless of whether the image was “free to use” or not – they should be sued anyway; just for different reasons.

Surely it cannot be legal to just trawl the internet for pictures of people and claim they are members of your dating site, enticing others to join!

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’re almost correct. The photo can be used almost willy nilly. The photographer has the copyright and can publish the image in almost any place he likes. The only time he cannot is when using it to endorse a product. He could put the photo on his blog, flickr, facebook, wikipedia, google bomb the thing if he wanted it to show up everywhere, he could put it on posters and spread it all over town, display it in art galleries, etc. But until a model release form is signed, he cannot use it in a way that makes it look like the woman is endorsing a product or service.

The details are too boring to get into, which I did once, but I’m not a photographer so I didn’t bother to remember all of them. But the gist above is correct. The photo can be used almost willy nilly, but a model release form is needed for certain narrow situations (this being one).

Transbot9 (profile) says:

You know what? I agree with the person suing

As a graphic designer, I have to know about legalities like this in order to make sure that I don’t do something stupid and get myself sued.

In my world, stock photography is one of those little white lies that everybody uses to get the job done quickly. No signed model release gets the photographer in trouble real quick. violated the liscense of the stock photography site (which is usually a contract with the photographer) by imply endorsement and could be subjected to false advertising. The medical site does have a decent chance of being slammed for defimation.

The defendents all did dumb things – specifically, whoever is responsible for the imagery in the medical company and did lazy, stupid things; the photographer releasing a photo to a stock site without having the model release was a really stupid thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

SXC (its servers being located in Hungary) is a stock site for free photographs that can be used in a myriad number of ways, but even its Upload License Agreement does have a restrictions regarding what can be uploaded, and its Download License Agreement does have restrictions regarding how photos may be used.

I know the terms of the two licenses quite well, and it is clear that both the uploader and the “downloader user” have paid short shrift to the respective licenses. What saddens me is that I have used the site as an uploader for many years, and have repeatedly commented to its principals that the licenses are very poorly crafted and leave the site vulnerable. On several occasions I even offered to draft pro bono new versions of each license, precisely to help keep the site out of hot water.

The licenses do at least contain an indemnification provision, giving it causes of action against both the uploader and downloaders in this case, but that is largely window dressing since photo uploads originate from all over the globe.

The fact it is a free stock site, not “royalty free” in the sense of not having to pay continuing royalties, might suggest to some that the inventory of photos are of questionable quality, but a perusal of what is available fairly demonstrates that this is hardly the case. Many of the photos easily rival (and exceed) what can be found on sites like Getty.

My familiarity with the site is because I have been an uploader for many years (never a downloader, and have enjoyed the experience because so many of my photos have been used for national and international ad campaigns. I still get a kick out of finding my photos appearing on ads and displays in the stores of major retailers that I frequent. Of course, I do not upload as a general rule photos of the type that are suitable for the types of uses alleged in the complaint.

The present matter notwithstanding, it is an excellent source for stock photos, many of which are hi-res that can easily be used in very large projects, up to and including poster size prints.

JackSombra (profile) says:

Quick search shows most likely reason they used her photo ( )?always thought those people (perfect but also ordinary hair/skin/teeth/smile) in stock images were so heavily photoshoped that one would be hard pushed to recognize the real person. But seems they do exist

Most of it seems straightforward to me

Photographer broke the model release with her. Pretty clear cut case with him just got caught doing false advertising, breaking licensing agreements and depending on were/how photo was used her lawsuit for defamation and misappropriation of likeness could be appropriate (if they used it on one of their fake ad?s then they best settle fast)
As for Health Central, Using an unknown persons photo in an article about coming out as homosexual?.they need to be just taken outside and shot for stupidly

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I would say no. used her picture to endorse their product, which is misleading (since she does not use or endorse the product) and a violation of the license agreement of the picture site. HealthCentral used it in a manner heavily implying she was homosexual.

The analogy would be more like WalMart making copies of software that was included in a patent lawsuit. Maybe they had no idea that the product they were getting was not properly procured, but they still knew that what they were doing was wildly inappropriate.

Even if they OWN the copyright, a company should not be able to pull up a photo of a random private citizen and attach it to their product. Or put it in an article that has nothing to do with them. It is both a violation of the person photographed and misleading to the public.

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