When Carolyn Giles posed for Volvo in 2007, she was told her image would be used to advertise the company's car company's S40 sedan. She could have never imagined a picture of her would pop up years later on a single's website promoting a party sponsored by Volvo under the suggestive headline, "Spend a Night with the Swedish Model of Your Choice." The caption underneath her photo reads "Rev Up Your Love-Life." Now, the recent Columbia University graduate, who modeled through college to help pay the tuition, is suing the company along with Hertz and her agency, Ford, for $23 Million.
A spokesperson for Volvo said in a statement that the ad was "a play on words" and "Swedish model" referred to cars not women. Giles isn't buying it. Her lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, told the Daily News, "It looks like something you'd see in the old yellow pages directories under escort services." He added, "It makes her look sleazy."
Giles was reportedly paid $2000 for the initial photo shoot. She discovered her picture online after an ex-boyfriend alerted her that he had seen it in an ad for Hertz car rentals in Argentina. She told Ford Models and asked them to enforce her contract, but she says, "They gave me the runaround." After a little digging on the Internet, she found that her image was being featured (in addition to the single's website) in ads posted in at least 25 countries for different Volvo models, rental cars, and tourism. It also showed up in a report by Hertz to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Representatives from Ford and Hertz declined to comment due to the pending lawsuit.
"Even if I end up with nothing," she told ABC News, "I would just be happy if the industry standard changed and people started doing what they're supposed to do."
Indeed, Giles's case is not unique. Last year, the parents of teen model Hailey Clauson sued Urban Outfitters for $28 million for using "blatantly salacious" images, which were shot when their daughter was only 15, without their permission. The pictures, some of which show Clauson in short cut-offs holding a six-pack of beer, ended up on Urban Outfitters' t-shirts and in a German fashion magazine.
These cases point to a larger problem of privacy in the age of the Internet. Photographs and videos can circulate around the web in lightning speed and can also be transformed in sometimes shocking ways. A disturbing case that surfaced last week highlights this issue. New Jersey mom, MaryAnn Sauhory is suing the Meredith Corporation because an instructional breast-feeding video she volunteered to participate with her newborn daughter ended up being spliced into a pornography video and released on the Internet. "Sometimes I want to crawl into bed and say, 'God I wish it wasn't me,'" she told the Associated Press. If even corporations can't protect the privacy of their clients or employees, then individuals need to be that much more vigilant.
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