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   Options re unlicensed use of copyrighted image
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magnetar
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Options re unlicensed use of copyrighted image
« on: Aug 17th, 2005, 4:34pm »
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I have a friend who is a model & actor. I took many of the photos that appear on his website. His website very clearly features "All images Copright 2004 All rights reserved. Any use without express permission is prohibited."
 
He told me a few months ago that he was hearing from friends and acquaintences that they had seen a banner ad with his face in the ad. Finally somebody was able to show him the ad. The site where it has been seen is a major internet portal, specifically the FREE MAIL services of that site. It is not an ad by the portal, it merely appears there. The portal in question is recognized worldwide (it begins with the letter "Y"), and the site I refer to is the local site (language specific) of that portal company in a Southeast Asian country.
 
The picture in the ad is a cropped photo of his face from his model/actor website. A picture that I took 3 years ago. The ad is for an immigration assistance "USA green card" service. Evidently this ad has been appearing for at least 3-4 months, and seems to be in heavy rotation. Anyone has a decent chance of seeing it if they log in to their free mail account on that portal. That's why he keeps hearing about it from other people.
 
- - -
 
Evidently the text (which I cannot read) in the ad next to his picture says something like "I got my green card you can too" ... which is not true, he doesn't know the company and never said those words, and doesn't havd a green card. He also found out that some web forum recently had messages posted about him, with people complaining about that company and him appearing in their ad. I have all the pages printed, but I don't read that language. He has been in some movies and television shows, so many people, especially younger people, do know of him.
 
Anyway, getting to the point ...
 
I think it is quite likely that the ad featuring his image has probably appeared tens of thousands of times. It is a major portal site, and their free mail service is very popular ... possibly many tens of thousands of users in that country ... if not more.
 
The company who is running the ad is a green-card assistance outfit (IMO scamming scum) based in NYC. They charge money for something that is basically free.
 
- - -
 
What are my best options?
 
I don't think he can really sue them in his country, since AFAIK they have no office there ... possibly they might, but I doubt it since their service is web-based.
 
Can I sue them here on his behalf? Is this likely a NY state suit or a federal suit. How could I sue them if he can't get to the US?
 
I'm in Ohio, and it isn't practical for me to go to NYC to deal with this. Could I sue them in federal court in my jurisdiction? His website is hosted here in my county. I live in the county. I operate the website on his behalf.
 
I do not know if it would be possible in his country to subpoena the portal company to gather evidence of the ad in question, how many times it has appeared, what company is paying to run the ad, who supplied the JPEG banner image, etc.
 
I don't know where to start. It seems pretty complicated.
 
I'm trying to gather more info about the company to see if they have $$$. I suspect they do, they have been around for several years, operate the same business under a number of different "clone" sites, and market their "service" in many languages in a lot of countries. My searches have shown that they are held in low esteem, basically viewed by many as scammers.
 
If I could sue, and if I did sue and "win", how would damages be determined for unlicensed use of a copyrighted image. As I said, I'm pretty sure this banner has appeared at least tens of thousands of times. What guides damage awards in such cases?
 
And finally, even if the company has $$$ and even if I did win, how likely is it that they would ever actually pay without being sued again to get at some assets of theirs?
 
- - -
 
Sorry for the long message. Many thanks for any helpful observations. I'm trying to figure out how complicated it might be to pursue this, what the possibilities are of winning, and what the likelihood is of actually collecting any damages that might make it all worthwhile.
 
Thanks!
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JSonnabend
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Re: Options re unlicensed use of copyrighted image
« Reply #1 on: Aug 18th, 2005, 8:43am »
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The facts you describe raise several possible causes of action, most of them federal causes.  You likely can sue them in your home jurisdiction, but you almost certainly can sue them in New York.
 
I'm a NYC based attorney with reasonable rates.  If you'd like to discuss this matter, please feel free to call me.
 
- Jeff
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SonnabendLaw
Intellectual Property and Technology Law
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718-832-8810
JSonnabend@SonnabendLaw.com
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