Global Economics

Virgin Mobile Faces Teen-Photo Suit


Instant fame was unwanted by a teenager whose photo was appropriated by the company from a Flickr page for their ad campaign. Now her family is suing

A Texas family has sued Australia's Virgin Mobile phone company, claiming it caused their teenage daughter grief and humiliation by plastering her photo on billboards and web site advertisements without consent.

The family of Alison Chang says Virgin Mobile grabbed the picture from Flickr, Yahoo's popular photo-sharing web site, and failed to credit the photographer by name.

Chang's photo was part of a Virgin Mobile Australia campaign called "Are You With Us Or What?" It features pictures downloaded from Flickr superimposed with the company's ad slogans.

The picture of 16-year-old Chang flashing a peace sign was taken in April by Alison's youth counselor, who posted it that day on his Flickr page, according to Alison's brother, Damon. In the ad, Virgin Mobile printed one of its campaign slogans, "Dump your pen friend," over Alison's picture.

The ad also says "Free text virgin to virgin" at the bottom.

The experience damaged Alison's reputation and exposed her to ridicule from her peers and scrutiny from people who can now Google her, the family said in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, names Virgin Mobile USA, its Australian counterpart, and Creative Commons, a Massachusetts nonprofit that licenses sharing of Flickr photos, as defendants.

The family accused the companies of libel and invasion of Chang's privacy. The suit seeks unspecified damages for Chang and the photographer, Justin Ho-Wee Wong.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Mobile USA said the company had nothing to do with the ads and had asked to be removed from the lawsuit.

Provided by Telecom Asia—Copyright: © 2006 Questex Media Group, Inc. > All right reserved.

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