Good Day Philadelphia coanchor Karen Hepp filed a $10 million lawsuit this week against Facebook, Reddit, Giphy, Imgur, and other websites claiming a photo of her was used in online dating and erectile dysfunction advertisements without her permission.
Hepp, who joined the Fox 29 news team in 2010, claims in the lawsuit that she first became aware of the allegedly unauthorized use of her likeness two years ago, after coworkers and managers at Fox 29 brought it to her attention. According to the suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and first reported by Philadelphia Magazine, the photo was taken by a security camera in an unknown New York City convenience store without Hepp’s consent.
Since then, Hepp alleges, the photo has been uploaded numerous times to various image-hosting sites including Imgur, where it is tagged with “milf,” an acronym that “refers to a sexually attractive woman with young children,” the complaint reads. GIF-hosting website Giphy, Hepp says, also hosts a version of the photo that has been edited to include a clip of a man “hiding behind a glass commercial freezer door and masturbating” behind her.
Online forum Reddit, meanwhile, features the image on a subsection geared toward people with a sexual preference for older women, according to the suit. The image also allegedly appears on a pornographic website operated out of the Czech Republic and in an advertisement for erectile dysfunction.
Facebook, the suit says, allowed the use of the image in an advertisement “soliciting users to ‘meet and chat with single women.’”
Hepp says that her image is of “high intrinsic commercial value” and was appropriated by the defendants in the suit for “prurient and illicit purposes” to “their commercial advantage” without her consent. That unauthorized use of her image, she says, violates Pennsylvania publicity statutes.
Hepp is asking for an order removing the image from the defendants’ websites, as well as compensatory damages in excess of $10 million.
Representatives for the defendants in the suit did not immediately respond to request for comment. Hepp’s attorney, Samuel Fineman of Cohen Fineman in Cherry Hill, declined to comment further. A representative from Fox 29 referred all questions to Fineman.