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I was in the process of creating content for an adult website.

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After a certain amount of...
I was in the process of creating content for an adult website. After a certain amount of content had been created the process halted and I had no further involvement with this person. I find out now, that this person has launched a porn paysite featuring numerous and VERY graphic photos and video of myself featured prominently on it. I was not contacted about any details of launching the site or notified about it at all. I have also received no compensation for any income generated by the sale of my images. What is the potential for legal action?
Submitted: 8 years ago.Category: Legal
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Answered in 1 hour by:
6/27/2010
Lawyer: David C. Garner, Attorney replied 8 years ago
David C. Garner
David C. Garner, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 1,118
Experience: JD with Distinction, Admitted to practice in California
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Can you give me some more context. By content, were you writing html pages and the text for the site, or do you mean you were posing for photos/videos? Did you get paid for the photo shoots/videos if that was what you were doing? At any point were you paid for anything, and did you sign anything?

 

Please give me as much information as you can, and I will try and help.

 

DCG

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
I posed for the content, in both video and photos. The content is extensive, including thousands of photos and between 10 and 15 videos. I was fully aware that the images and film would be used in conjunction with an adult paysite. However I was very clear to my "associate" that I wanted certain content only accessed by paying members and to have the ability to approve what images were used and how they were represented. I was also very clear (not on paper, this was all verbal) that I would not release the images to the distribution company until we had worked out compensation, and how freely that company could link the material through to any secondary sites for backlinking, thereby losing any shred of control over presentation. She abandoned the project (basically flaked out) and we lost touch, she then moved out of state. She then entered into some sort of agreement with the distribution company with copies of all the material we had created, leaving me not only out of the loop but not notified at all, and has apparently now turned over everything we produced together carte blanche. Some of the images were taken by me on her camera and I did a huge amount of work editing/post production work on them on my computer. They were also shot on equipment and at a location owned by another individual who is also featured in the material completely without knowledge or compensation and is also wondering about legal recourse, this being her ex who she was living with at the time). I hope that none of these gory details are offensive to anyone. Since there are a few very important things I am unclear about (ie the wording of a document I can't be sure I didn't sign, "slaps forehead") I'm trying to give as much context as I can.

Having done some reading since I posted my question I'm very discouraged. It seems that considering how broad many model release/age verification documents are I may be out of luck. This was my first time working with any kind of "release" in a modeling context. She had all the contact with the company she was producing content for and my understanding at the time was that as soon as we had finished creating the content we would negotiate with the company for usage and compensation. I am the first to admit that I am responsible for my own failure to research my rights and the legal issues involved. title="Frown"/> I am also asking for legal advicewithout having certain important details, like a copy of what I "may" have signed. I have a clear memory of talk about paperwork, and seeing something, (very brief) printed out. Under these circumstances I realize that the input I can receive is quite limited. So let me narrow my query:

(1.) Do I have a right to demand a copy of all paperwork the initial site has for me as a model? And yes, I am aware that I have broken the cardinal rule of never signing anything without examining it and obtaining a copy. I'm not expecting to be able to have the images removed from the many places they are now appearing.

(2.) One thing I am sure about is that I did not sign any document specifying the compensation for the material, and have not seen a dime from anything related to the images, which, considering the site's traffic stats, is in the tens of thousands. Do I have a case for challenging the legality of a document that is so one-sided (in retrospect) that no reasonable person would have agreed to it if they had known it's implications? The implication being that:

"we can post 100's of free hardcore images of you all over the internet through dozens of sites and hundreds of feeder links, accompanied by statements you have not approved and that could certainly be considered "defaming", and not only keep them up without your permission but never share a cent of the substantial profit."

Again, I know you guys get questions from people all the time with only partial information on which to base your feedback. I'm thankful for any input, however general. I also realize that "fairness" often has little relevance in the legal arena.

So yeah, I'm definitely going to be paying for this mistake the rest of my life. I'm just wondering about my options for damage control and if I can expect any sort of compensation at the very least.

This isn't a case where a professional photographer with the company came and shot the content. This was content that I and an associate were creating on our own with the intention of marketing selective parts of it to the distribution company and agreement (verbal - like a moron) that we would both have to approve all the images and video and how they would appear in context before we released them to the distributor. She basically took every frame/video we ever produced and turned it over to them after we parted ways. I was never paid a dollar for any part of the process with the understanding that that would come after the site was launched. This is a common practice with a certain type of "amateur" site, but it also makes the whole issue more confusing.

So again to summarize, her status as "owner" of the images is flimsy as they were shot with someone elses equipment, at a house owned by someone else, and edited on 2 computers not her own. Though I am not at all sure whether I signed anything or if I did how broad the document was, I am sure that the company that ended up distributing the images was a different company that she became affiliated with after we parted ways. So the question arises, if I did sign something;

1. Would that release apply to a different company or is it with my friend so she could transfer it to whoever did distribute the content.
Lawyer: David C. Garner, Attorney replied 8 years ago

This is a difficult problem and no, I am not offended or put off by discussing it. It is a legal question and we here are attorneys. I would have advised against such activities for just the reasons you describe, but you have rights and it is a legal issue.

 

The entire problem turns (to the extent I can understand the relationships and activities) on the release that you may have signed. The wording therein will determine the outcome of any action you pursue.

 

One more question if I may. Do you know where this person is for purposes of a lawsuit?

 

DCG

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Yes I do, and I also have her phone number and contact info, she is living in LA. Although it seems to me that the party need to approach via litigation or settlement is the company which distributed the content for the best result. Ironically enough I am working as a paralegal at the moment so I have been able to do quite a bit of research on my own since I found about the site 2 days ago. This also gives me the ability to both do most of the research and prep for the case, with the assistance of a few of the lawyers I work with for motions filing and other things out of my reach. They are all very cool ladies and are happy to help and non-judgemental. So obviously this would drastically reduce my legal costs!

I think you have hit the heart of the issue, that until I verify the content of the "release". I cannot really go much further. Though since I know no compensation was ever decided upon and I certainly haven't received a single dollar. I suspect that the best grounds I will have for disputing the "model reliease/contract" is that there was no provision for any kind of consideration or compensation. Looking at contract law in Colorado and California, the two states in question I think that that might be enough for it not to be considered binding. So I just have 2 more questions, and I'm happy to accept your answer.

(1) Do you think that the below link and the info it contains is pertinent to my situation?

http://www.weblocator.com/attorney/ca/law/c06.html#cac060000

It seemed to me after reading it that even if they argue that the document I signed functions as both contract and release I can show it is non-binding.

(2) Does the company that has distributed the content have to supply me with documentation relating to me, and if so, what would be the best way to go about it? Keep in mind that I'm still not at all sure I signed anything at all. I just can't be sure. The only thing I am certain of is that it was very vague and contained no specifics regarding how the two parties would fulfill the contract.

(3) Initially after reading post after post online by models in different industries all with very doom and gloom opinions on the model's rights after signing a release, I was quite discouraged. Over and over this view came up, but after looking into contract law it seems to me that the reason for their attitude is that models are often taken advantge of and intimidated by the threatening and all encompassing legal jargon that many industry contracts/releases contain. I think that these contracts are often composed to do exactly that; look scary and discourage challenge. I doubt that this is actually the case. Do you think I may have a case if the model release isn't particularly well composed? And the very last question, is contract law the area I need to focus on?

Thank you again, you have more than earned both the fee and the bonus, and a great review as well.
Lawyer: David C. Garner, Attorney replied 8 years ago

The areas of law that I think are going to support you best are contract and tort. Again, a lot depends on the wording of the release, but if you were paid nothing and given nothing, then the release (a contract) was likely unsupported by consideration and thus void. Further, assuming that there was some sort of consideration for this agreement, if other statements were made to you to induce you to sign that turned out to be false, then an action for fraud may lie (both fraud in the inducement and execution).

 

Lastly, in terms of tort, assuming that the release is invalid or the publication of this material to a third-party website exceeded the scope of the release granted, I think you have a cause of action that sounds in defamation and invasion of privacy and perhaps even (its a stretch) intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress. With all due respect, I think you were crazy to get involved in something like this, but that said (and assuming you are a young woman), I can't possibly imagine the devastation you must feel at having this kind of material circulating the web outside of your control. This is a terrible situation, but you are not without legal recourse.

 

The good news is that in a suit you can join your "friend" in the contract/fraud actions and then join ALL the other outfits displaying this information in the defamation/invasion of privacy parts of the suit. One well worded lawsuit will in all probability get everyone to the table and may very well get this stuff off the web (to the extent possible).

 

I hope this helps. It's a difficult problem hard to fully answer without being able to sit down together and review documents, etc., but I think these are the best ways to approach it. If your employers are willing to help, so much the better.

 

Take care and I hope it works out well.

 

DCG

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