2 dating websites sued over soldier's photo in ads
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- The picture of a handsome, uniformed soldier accompanying online ads that proclaim "Military Man Searching for Love" is an Army lieutenant who was killed in Iraq in 2007, according to a lawsuit filed by his parents against two dating websites.
The parents of Army Lt. Peter Burks have sued PlentyofFish.com and True.com, alleging the companies used their son's photo in ads without their permission, benefited financially and misled the public. The suit filed Monday in state district court in Dallas seeks a jury trial for compensatory and punitive damages.
Alan Burks said the photo was taken days before his 26-year-old son was killed in Baghdad in late 2007 and is on the website of the family's Unsung Hero Fund, which provides supplies to troops in war zones as a tribute to Peter Burks.
In December, a friend recognized Peter Burks in an ad on PlentyofFish.com, clicked on it and was directed to True.com, Alan Burks said. He said his son was engaged at the time of his death, so the idea that he was trying to meet women online as the ad portrays "couldn't be more wrong."
"I felt horrified, disgusted. It upset me," said Alan Burks, who lives in Dallas.
PlentyofFish Media spokesman Paul Bloudoff said the Vancouver-based company didn't advertise online in the U.S. in December. He said hundreds of thousands of third parties advertise via his company's site every month, and that it cannot control nor know about the content of those ads.
Even so, the ad has been blocked from the company's network, he said.
"We dealt with this matter a month ago," Bloudoff said in an email. "In our opinion, this case should not have been filed."
True.com President Ruben Buell said the Dallas-based company, whose official business name is True Beginnings LLC, buys ads that run on other dating websites but does not know what happened in this situation.
"I certainly feel for his family," Buell said Monday.
PlentyofFish Media did not say how long the ads -- including one with Peter Burks' photo that said "Soldiers Want You!" -- ran or how his photo was obtained, said Rogge Dunn, the attorney who filed the suit.
-- Angela K. Brown, Associated Press
SD House panel passes bill on juvenile sexting
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- A South Dakota lawmaker more narrowly defined "juvenile sexting" on Monday, saying he doesn't think the illegal activity should fall under the child pornography law.
An amended version of Republican Sen. Mike Vehle's bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.
In the measure, juvenile sexting includes intentionally creating, producing, possessing and distributing through any computer or digital media a photograph or digitized image of nude minors. The bill makes the act of juvenile sexting punishable by a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The amendment also clarifies that any minor who receives a sexually explicit picture of another minor and deletes it instead of sending it to someone else under 18 would not be charged.
"What we have on the books now for existing law is you either give them a slap on the wrists or you charge them with child pornography and they need to register as a sex offender," Vehle said. "The problem here is that the punishment doesn't fit the crime."
But, Vehle said, sexting isn't a light matter because of its long-lasting effects. Once the images are on the Internet, Vehle said, "they spread like wildfire" and can land in the hands of sexual predators.
Jesse Weins, professor of criminal justice at Dakota Wesleyan University, said the bill helps the state deter sexting and step away from the "all or nothing approach" to punishment.
"In these cases it's minors exploiting themselves, but oftentimes they don't understand the gravity of it," Weins said, especially because social media adds more outlets for the pictures.
Last year, Vehle sponsored a similar measure but chose to kill it after questions arose on what to do when a juvenile sends the image to an adult. This year, Vehle focused the legislation on minors only.
The measure next goes to the full House for a vote.
-- Veronica Zaragovia, Associated Press
Pa. film studio to feature `Avatar' technology
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A Pittsburgh film studio has made deals with the creators of the computer animation used in the movie "Avatar" and other groups to open a new motion-capture production facility that is the first of its kind outside of Hollywood.
Chris Breakwell of The 31st Street Studios announced the deal that involves "Avatar" animators Knight Vision, Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center and Paramount On Location, a division of Paramount Studio Group that moves lighting, rigging and other movie-making equipment to remote shooting locations across the country.
Knight Vision creates computer animation by having humans wear costumes fitted with digital markers that computers can use to transfer the person's motion to an animated character. But the company's innovation is that filmmakers can see the digitally-created characters where they will appear in the film frame instead of having to imagine where they will be added using computers after the fact.
"We're going to do things no one else is doing anywhere," said James Knight, the company's founder. He's creating a new company, Knight Vision 31, that will employ technology even more advanced than that used to animate the 2009 Oscar-winning "Avatar" for Breakwell's Pittsburgh studio along the southern shore of the Allegheny River.
Knight said state tax credits and the chance to work with Carnegie Mellon University were keys to the Pittsburgh deal. The state offers up to $60 million in tax credits annually that filmmakers can put toward some production expenses, provided at least 60 percent of a film's total budget is spent in the state.
CMU's entertainment technology students will work with Knight Vision technology and hopefully become skilled enough to work for the company or do their own similar work.
"This is the way of the future," said Anthony Daniels, an actor and visiting professor at the Entertainment Technology Center, who is best known for portraying the cyborg C-3PO in the "Star Wars" movies. Daniels quipped that the studio deal is a "great coming together of the forces."
Movie productions have injected about $300 million into the Pittsburgh area in the last three years, including "The Dark Knight Rises," the new Batman sequel starring Christian Bale, and the Tom Cruise thriller "One Shot," both filmed in the city last year.
"Pittsburgh really is becoming the Hollywood of the East," Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said at Monday's news conference. But even more exciting than having Bale and Cruise come to town is economic growth, Fitzgerald said.
"What it really means to us is jobs," he said.
Bill would let drivers prove insurance with phone
BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Idaho motorists pulled over by police could use mobile phones to verify their auto insurance under a bill heading to the Senate floor.
The Senate Transportation Committee advanced legislation Wednesday that would make Idaho the first state to allow drivers to prove they own liability insurance using images downloaded on smartphones.
Property and Casualty Insurance Association of America lobbyist Michael Kane sponsored the bill. He says insurers would supply willing customers with an electronic copy of their policy along with the traditional paper version.
Kane says the bill would ultimately cut costs by reducing the number of frivolous citations issued by police officers. Kane claims police write thousands of no-insurance tickets each year that are dismissed because they didn't have insurance proof handy.