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Sure, you appeared on a reality TV show or on the pages of Playboy magazine, but that doesn't mean that any old strip club can slap your topless photo on one of their ads. That's what over a dozen Playmates and professional models (and one Real Housewives of Miami star) are alleging in two lawsuits filed in federal court in New York.
The plaintiffs are alleging that the strip clubs used their images to give the false impression they either endorsed or worked at the establishments, and they're seeking money damages and an injunction against the clubs from using their likenesses in the future.
There are two lawsuits covering four strip clubs and fourteen plaintiffs. Joanna Krupa, a "Real Housewives of Miami" and "Dancing with the Stars" personality, filed a complaint in the Eastern District, alleging a Cafe Royale promotion features her topless and "in nothing more than a thong and boots." The ad declares "Thank God I am so fabulous!" and additional copy beside the ad reads "Come to Cafe Royale and see why I am so Fabulous! TGIF!!"
Another lawsuit filed in the Southern District claims that three Manhattan establishments, Flashdancers, Private Eyes, and New York Dolls, used photos of eleven Playboy Playmates and professional models to promote their clubs without permission.
For instance, one New York Dolls Facebook post showed swimsuit and lingerie model Heather Rae Young in a "sexually suggestive football uniform" in order to promote its Super Bowl parties. Accompanying the photo was text that read, "Come party with us all Super Bowl week ... Get ready for the big game with our gorgeous entertainers in their favorite football jerseys ... We look forward to partying with you!"
The plaintiffs are suing under false endorsement and deceptive trade practices laws, which prohibit using a person's name or image to endorse businesses or products without his or her permission. They are also suing for defamation, claiming the ads falsely represented them as working as a stripper or endorsing a strip club, therefore damaging their reputations.
So a note to strip clubs, and to all businesses, really: yes they are celebrities, and yes they may have exposed themselves to Playboy and the paparazzi, but they still retain the rights to their own personas. So lawyer up before you steal their images, or you'll have to lawyer up later.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.