$20M lawsuit against Yahoo


Yahoo are being sued by Shannon Stoval for $20 Million because Yahoo used her photo, allegedly without permission, to promote the Yahoo Mail Service

Google Watch are reporting that

Stovall, who is represented by attorneys from three firms—read: not a pro se lawsuit—is alleging Yahoo violated her right to publicity and right to privacy.

My question would be did the photographer licence the photo, as (according to my limited understanding of UK let alone US law) the copyright and right to use this image would lay with that person.

It is unlikely that the rights to the photo are owned by Stovall as she believes she is in the photo so can not be the photographer. I believe the only way she can be the copyright owner is if she purchased the rights to the image in entirety. I do not believe that there is a specific law (In the UK at least) to the right to publicity or privacy, otherwise how would we see all the paparazzi photos of celebs?

Does Bill Slawski or any other lawyer want to give a POV from the US legal side?


In Canada...

Can't say for sure in the US, but in Canada, if you use a photo of a person for marketing or commercial purposes, you have to get the person to sign a likeness release agreement.

Having said that, I'm fairly certain you can take a picture of anyone or anything, and if the image isn't copyrighted, or the photo isn't being used for inherently commercial reasons, then it's not subject to the same rules.

Personality Rights

I'm not a practicing attorney, but I can give you some idea of what is meant by "right to publicity" and "right to privacy."

Paparazzi photos of celebrities might be said, at least in some instances, to be news reporting. But if you were to take the same images, and put them on a label for a product, or an advertisement, that would be a commercial purpose.

A right to publicity is a right to control the commercial usage of your name, image, or likeness. So for instance, if someone unrelated to Threadwatch in any way, were to hold a paid conference and promote it as being "highly recommended by Threadwatch," that would be a violation of Threadwatches' right to publicity.

A right to privacy is defined in a number of ways by different courts, but usually involves some type of intrusion into a person's privacy (such as the taking of a photo of that person), and putting them before the public in an unreasonable way that makes it look at though they were standing for something or promoting something that they aren't, without their knowledge or permission.

Together, these two rights are often referred to as personality rights.

A photographer can take a photo of someone, and own the copyright in that photo, but to use the photo in a museum exhibition or a commercial use, the photographer would probably have to get a release unless the person was unidentifiable from the picture.

We own a fashion photography

We own a fashion photography studio and deal with copyright law often. Bill is correct that you cannot use an image for commercial purposes outside of reasonable self portfolio use without a signed release form and generally compensation of some sort.

Does that also mean ...

Does that also mean that a photo of a person, which you purchased at an online photo gallery, cannot be used for commercial purposes IF the person is identifiable? (E.g, you can see the face?)

>> cannot be used...

That is a scary thought.

For DianeV's question:

In the US, if you buy an image at an online photo gallery, you need to check the license you've purchased for information on limitations. In most cases, if you purchase use of a photo containing a person's face from a stock photography firm, it would be expected that the stock photo outfit would've insured that they had a signed release from the model.

Sometimes when you buy an image from a stock photo firm, your license can limit how the photo is used. For instance, they might have different pricing for the internet versus printed pamphlets versus billboards, etc.

Also in the US, I believe you can use politician's images without their permission, even for commercial purposes. For others, you'd need a photo release to make sure you've got rights of use (unless you get the image from a stock photo firm which has all the model releases on file).

Thanks, Silver

That's pretty much what I thought.

I've seen one (online) stock photo outfit specify that photos of people were not to be used in a way that implied that those people were recommending the product/service. That's pretty clear.

Bill, thank you for your

Bill, thank you for your comments pal. It definately clarifies the route that the plaintiff has taken and from what you have said it definately makes the case seem more "interesting"


that looks a lot like a stock image to me, so surely Yahoos contract would have been with the image library, or possibly photographer, as would hers?

Of course we can't second guess what the actual legal position is but it seems pretty unlikely that, when you can get worldwide appropriate size/use of a very similar image from Corbis on a 5 year licence for under 3k, they would have just stolen the image from her portfolio or something?

and how do you calculate $20 mill damages? Erm, $500 would have been her license, $10,000 damages and the rest to the lawyer? Its not like they were using her on cards in phone boxes for gods sake.

Ah, the smell of dollars.

:rolls eyes: {sigh}

There are similar laws against using random photos for advertising over here. The "victim" gets a nice bunch of flowers and a free blow-up of the picture in question. Possibly framed.

Tsk. Money wolves

Money Wolves? A person has

Money Wolves? A person has a right to some level of privacy, to have their identity be their own. People throw a fit about old rock songs being co-opted in ads, what about your own likeness?

The $20mil is punative, it does not need to nor should it add up to basic costs. The idea is the company should be penalized so they do not do this again.

$20M is a shakedown

wow what a payday. $20M.

I bet she'll wear a neckbrace into court to gardner some sympathy.

to gardner some

to gardner some sympathy

Can you grow sympathy like tomatoes? If so where can I buy the seeds :D

Sympathy Seeds

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