What rights do I have for unauthorized use of my photo on the Internet?

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Question:

What rights does a person have if their picture was taken and then posted to an Internet website without permission? Is the person entitled to any of the website's profit? Can the person sue if the picture was uncomplimentary?

Answer:

You can stop a website's use of your image for three reasons: invasion of privacy, violation of right of publicity, or defamation.

Invasion of privacy can occur if you are portrayed falsely and in a highly offensive manner. For example, your photo was posted at America's Most Wanted's website, and you are not wanted -- by the law. Your privacy may also be invaded if the photo was taken by someone who intruded on you in a situation in which you had a reasonable expectation of privacy -- for example, in your own home. It is not an invasion of privacy to photograph someone in a public place or at any event where the public is invited.

Another reason to stop the use is known as the right of publicity. This occurs if your image is used for commercial purposes such as to sell products or to imply that you endorse a product. If the photo is used in a commercial website -- that is, one sponsored by a business or that sells products or services -- the unauthorized use of your image would probably violate your right of publicity. The public must be able to identify you in the photograph.

You can also stop the website use if the photo defames you -- that is, it creates a false impression and injures your reputation. For example, it would be defamatory to doctor a photo to make it seem as if you were shoplifting. The fact that an unmodified photo is unflattering is not enough to claim defamation. The photo must falsely portray you and must cause people in the community to think less of you.

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