An 18-year-old English photography student was stunned when she discovered a picture of herself on the cover of a pornographic movie last year.
Lara Jade Coton learned from a visitor to her photography Web site that the image, a self-portrait she took at age 14, was on the cover of Body Magic, a hard-core porn film by TVX Films.
"I was absolutely horrified to see my work and my own picture being used on that kind of a movie," Coton said in a statement released by her Tampa attorney on Tuesday.
Richard A. Harrison, a lawyer with Allen Dell P.A. of Tampa, filed the federal lawsuit in Tampa's U.S. District Court, accusing Bob Burge, president of Nevada-based TVX Films, and his company for a list of legal violations including copyright infringement, civil conspiracy, misappropriation of her image, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"All of our kids are out there posting pictures on MySpace and Facebook," Harrison said. "A couple of clicks and somebody can copy it and something like this can happen."
In the picture, Coton sits at a window wearing a shoulder-baring dress, a top hat over her eyes.
Almost as soon as she learned of the picture, she e-mailed Burge on Jan. 29, said the suit.
"I am absolutely disgusted that you've used my artwork for such a subject," she wrote. "I was fourteen at the time the picture was taken and I had no clue until today that you were using it in such a way."
Burge responded a few days later that he was looking into the matter. Because only a couple of hundred DVDs had been sold, he wrote, according to the suit, "the picture is of little importance."
When Coton requested compensation for the company's unauthorized use of her picture, Burge declined, arguing that the Internet is public domain and calling her demand "scheming."
"Nice try toots," the Feb. 2 e-mail said, according to the suit. "We are still going to remove you from the art, not because of your claim but let's face it your picture means very little to the film."
Later the same day, Burge wrote Coton saying again the image would be removed within the month, adding, "Actually, removing your image (will) help improve the sell of the DVD. ... So far it bombed."
On three occasions in May and June, however, Coton's attorneys ordered Body Magic from different Internet sites. When the DVDs arrived, said the suit, Coton's image had been removed from the cover, but it remained on the actual DVDs themselves.
Coton lives in England but secured a U.S. lawyer because the companies she is suing are based in the United States. Although TVX and its distributors are not based in Florida, Harrison said he could sue in Tampa because they do business nationwide through the Internet, giving Florida's federal courts jurisdiction.
Coton seeks damages, and wants the court to impound all copies of the movie and other materials bearing her image.
Burge could not be reached at his offices late Tuesday.
Researcher John Martin contributed to this report.
See for yourself
The photographer's Web site can be found at: www.larajade.com.