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Somebody took photos of my wife on a treadmill at a gym without her permission.

One of those photos appeared a week later in the local paper in an advertisement for a car dealership.

Subsequently my wife feels humiliated as co-workers have started becoming pervy towards her, hitting on her, making crude jokes about her etc. Consquently, she has become stressed about it and doesn't really want to go to work.

What rights and claims does she have against the entities that used her image commercially without her permission, and how are they pursued?

  • You need to review her gym membership contract. It's likely she did give permission for photos to be taken, but hopefully only for use to promote the gym. Giving or selling the photos to the car dealership is where there's a problem. – mkennedy Jun 26 '16 at 18:52
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The "right of publicity" or "personality rights" is what's relevant. How you might pursue this depends on where you live. In Washington, RCW 63.30 forbids such action – see RCW 63.60.050

Any person who uses or authorizes the use of a living or deceased individual's or personality's name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, on or in goods, merchandise, or products entered into commerce in this state, or for purposes of advertising products, merchandise, goods, or services, or for purposes of fund-raising or solicitation of donations, or if any person disseminates or publishes such advertisements in this state, without written or oral, express or implied consent of the owner of the right, has infringed such right. An infringement may occur under this section without regard to whether the use or activity is for profit or not for profit.

Apart from injunctions against continuing the infringement and destruction of infringing material, the infringer is liable $1,500 or actual damages, whichever is greater, plus attorney and court costs. Even without such a statutes, the Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition states

One who appropriates the commercial value of a person’s identity by using without consent the person’s name, likeness, or other indicia of identity for purposes of trade is subject to liability for the relief appropriate under the rules stated in § § 48 and 49.

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