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A Florida woman is suing a background check website for using her mugshot in a "hot convict" ad that went viral.
Meagan Simmons, 28, of Zephyrhills, has filed a lawsuit accusing InstantCheckmate.com of using her image for financial gain without her permission -- and especially without giving her a cut of the profits, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Does this "hot convict" have a case?
Mugshot Turns Into Meme
Although Simmons is suing InstantCheckmate.com for the use of her mugshot in its advert, the mother of four wasn't ignorant of the photo before this suit. In an interview with The Huffington Post in April, Simmons was described as "making the most of her newfound fame," and even reposting the meme versions of her mugshot on her Facebook page.
According to the Times, the photo came from a July 2010 booking photo of Simmons, taken when she had been arrested for DUI.
Despite its use as a meme, Simmons' suit alleges that her mugshot's use in an InstantCheckmate.com ad caused her anguish and invaded her privacy.
Invasion of Privacy
Like someone who uses a celebrity's picture in an ad without permission, InstantCheckmate.com may be guilty of appropriating Simmons' likeness without her permission -- an invasion of her privacy. Although Simmons is not a famous actor or celebrity, InstantCheckmate.com likely did take advantage of her Internet fame in order to make a buck using her image -- without paying Simmons a dime.
Simmons attorney explained to the Times that the issue of commercial profits is what separates InstantCheckmate.com from the thousands of "hot convict" memes propagated with Simmons' mugshot. Those meme-creators weren't using Simmons' face to make money, but InstantCheckmate.com was.
Getting a Mugshot Taken Down
In addition to monetary damages, Simmons is seeking an injunction to prevent further use of her mugshot by InstantCheckmate.com.
Other arrestees have had to travel down long legal roads to get their mugshots taken down by similar websites -- with some sites charging huge "takedown" fees to remove a mugshot photo.
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.