Facebook has responded to a $10 million lawsuit filed last year by Fox 29’s Karen Hepp by asking that a judge dismiss the complaint.
The Good Day Philadelphia coanchor filed the suit in September against Facebook, Reddit, Giphy, Imgur, and other internet companies, claiming that her photo was being used for “prurient and illicit purposes” on their platforms without her consent.
The image, which Hepp claims in the suit came from a security camera in a New York City convenience store, appeared in advertisements for online-dating services and erectile dysfunction medication, as well as on pornographic websites. Hepp sued for compensatory damages in excess of $10 million, as well as the removal of the photo from the websites.
That unauthorized use of Hepp’s likeness, the suit states, violates Pennsylvania’s “right of publicity” law. Essentially, state law prevents companies from using the image or name of a person in a commercial pursuit without consent from that person.
An advertisement for an online-dating service that used Hepp’s photo appeared on Facebook, but attorneys for the company said in a filing earlier this month that it was “immune from liability” because Facebook itself did not create the ad, and the case against it should be dismissed. Hepp’s claims against the company, Facebook said, are “based on untenable legal theories attempting to hold online and mobile platforms liable for the actions of third-party advertisers.”
In addition to the Facebook advertisement, Hepp’s image has also appeared on a subsection of Reddit geared toward people with a sexual preference for older women, as well as a pornographic website based out of the Czech Republic. The photo also appears on image-hosting site Imgur, where it is tagged with the acronym “milf,” and on GIF-hosting site Giphy, where it has been edited to include a clip of a man “hiding behind a glass commercial freezer door and masturbating,” Hepp’s suit states.
Since last year, other defendants, such as Reddit, have filed motions for dismissal claiming that the court where the suit was filed does not hold jurisdiction over the case.