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Georgia court rules on 'Girls Gone Wild' business litigation

A marketer for the 'Girls Gone Wild' video franchise can be sued in connection with the use of a 14-year-old's image on the cover of a video box for the series. This ruling was handed down by the highest court in the state of Georgia after it ruled that another claim in this business litigation suit was invalid. The Georgia Supreme Court did decide that the plaintiff could sue under the doctrine of an 'appropriation of likeness' claim.

This theory holds that a person who has their likeness used without obtaining their consent in order for another to enjoy commercial gain has the right to file suit against that company or individual. In this case, since MRA Holding LLC has arguably benefited from using the woman's likeness-allegedly without her permission-she does have a valid basis to make a claim. There is not yet any word on whether she will pursue a civil lawsuit based upon that legal theory.

The other legal theory being proposed that was shot down by the Georgia Supreme Court included a claim of child exploitation. According to the Court, only government officials can pursue a case of child exploitation in the criminal courts. Additionally, the judges did not believe that the plaintiff had sufficiently established that MRA had knowledge that the girl was a minor at the time they appropriated her image.

With that being said, the Court has ruled that the plaintiff may choose to pursue a business litigation suit based upon the appropriation of likeness claim if she so chooses. Georgia residents or companies who believe that another entity has inappropriately used a likeness to which they own the rights may wish to keep an eye on this case. Additionally, they may wish to research their own options for filing a similar civil suit in order to protect their own rights.

Source: Business Insider, "'Girls Gone Wild' Marketer Can Be Sued Over Image Of A Topless 14-Year-Old," Erin Fuchs, March 29, 2013

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