Another Actor Fights Back Against Nude Photos

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 12:30 pm PT
right of publicity suit actor nude photographs

An unknown, but allegedly famous television actress has sued a website for posting nude photographs of her on its website and using her name to drive traffic to a pornographic site. The complaint in Jane Doe v. Roe Corporation was filed in a Los Angeles superior court. It alleges a violation of California Civil Code Section 1708.85 which provides a cause of action for the unlawful distribution of images of a person's "intimate body part," or of a person participating in sex acts when that person did not expect those photographs or video to be shared with others.

The complaint also alleges a violation of Doe's common law right of publicity, and California's unfair competition laws because of the use of the actor's professional goodwill without her permisison.  The complaint is short on details--likely to preserve anonymity--so it is hard to assess the likelihood of success, but even famous plaintiffs, who must tolerate more media coverage than they would like, usually prevail when naked photos or sex videos are at issue. 

The recent victory by Hulk Hogan against Gawker for publishing a clip of a sex video involving the wrestler demonstrates the limited latitude even journalists have to show such videos, and the often massive verdicts against the defendants in such instances.  Sports broadcaster Erin Andrews also recently prevailed in her lawsuit to stop the dissemination of images taken of her naked in a hotel room. So I put my odds on the plaintiff prevailing on this one even with the scant facts available.

Using such anonymous filings is a good technique to avoid the lawsuit itself generating more traffic and viewing of the very photographs that a plaintiff wishes to have removed from the Internet.  This case may well quickly settle, but if not the identity of the plaintiff may be difficult to keep secret given the likely media attention on the case.

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THE RIGHT OF PUBLICITY: Privacy Reimagined for a Public World

This book from Harvard University Press by Professor Jennifer Rothman traces the history and development of the right of publicity and its current collision course with individual liberty, free speech and copyright law.

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