Marketing MadnessSpecials

Plenty of Fish Sued for Photo of Dead Soldier

Last month Plenty of Fish, POF was sued for using a dead soldiers photo in ads for “Military Man Searching for Love.   Army Lt. Peter Burks parents have sued PoF and for using the photo without permission.

“The implication is that, if you click here, this is one of our members. This is somebody you’ll meet — and people like him — when this fallen hero has been dead three or four years,” said their attorney.

After reading the case, it looks like some affiliate actually stole the photo, put an advertisement on PoF for In fact, this is what they told the media – and yet, their name has been smeared because of this stupid affiliate.

This of course raises tons of questions about using people’s photos from the web in advertisements that you make. Honestly, I think most of the industry can say that at one time if they’ve tested anything with those platforms, they have “stolen” an image or two.

A few months ago I published the very popular article about A Married Woman who Sued Match for Photos. It seems that some affiliate used her likeness to promote on Facebook.  Following that story it seems there are tons of similar articles that have come on, raising the question about the ethics of stealing photos from the web and using them.

What is the problem here right? While its most likely illegal to use people’s photos without permission, there raises a total other issue: that people lives can be destroyed when their likeness shows up.  It seems that this issue happens most when it comes to dating websites, that people are finding their photos in advertisements every where, often by affiliates, implying that they are single.

In the case of the killed soldier, the photo was just offensive.

The site, which no longer works, actually early this year decided to scrape over 250k profiles without their knowledge and then add them to a dating site. Of course, people were amazed to find out that many of them were looking for love, even through they were actually married.

Over at Mike Young Law, he mentions where a well-known super model had her photo used by a dating service (Escort Service?) DNA Diamonds. She of course sued.

As Mike Young put it,

It should remind you and other Internet marketers not to use photos or images on your websites unless you have the legal right to do so. When in doubt, either get written permission or don’t use the photo. There’s plenty of stock photography and public domain pics available for you to use without risking a lawsuit. If you really want to use a photo but can’t pin down ownership, have your Web lawyer do it for you.

Don’t steal photos from the web, no matter how much you might think it makes your life easier.  Not only can it be in bad taste, but if you are caught, you might not get paid for the campaign, or worse be sued and humiliated on the web for being the idiot who used a dead soldiers likeness for a an advertisement.

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Pace Lattin

Pace Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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  1. Which is why all affiliates should use to find free creative commons license photos.

  2. Just as bad – or possibly worse – is inadvertently picking a photo that turned up in a free for commercial use Google search only to be contacted after using it by a company like Getty Images who then proceed to demand a 4, 5 or even 6 figure sum for that use.

    This actually happened to me and, take it from me, Getty Images are anything but kind or friendly.

    As to why controlled images are showing up in free for use searches? I wonder whether that is due to ineptness by Google or intentional by Getty?

    Who was it that said “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get me!”?

    1. Just because they really are out to get you doesn’t mean you aren’t paranoid.
      Steven Brust

      Little backwards, but same thing –

      How did the involvement with getty turn out? Thats a story I’d like to hear. As for affiliates not using trademarked images or likeliness without consent, they should know better, and it is them that should be sued.

  3. Christopher – how did you resolve this?

    And, to the readership out there – does anyone know who’s liable, when affiliates do illegal things while promoting you? your affiliate agreement should dictate that affiliates are contractors, but does this project the advertiser?

    1. RE: who’s liable, that would depend on the agreement between the advertiser and the affiliate correct?

      So if the agreement/contract included mutual indemnification, that would also leave the advertiser on the hook with the affiliate if I’m correct in my logic.

  4. sick thing to do either way you look at it.

    im not a pro but i think liability will be decided based on what steps were taken. the poster is definitely liable but if POF did nothing and have no real policing effort its neglectful of them

What's your opinion?

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