When Carolyn Giles posed for Volvo in 2007, she was told her picture would be used to advertise the company's car company's S40 sedan. She could have never imagined her image would pop up years later on a single's website promoting a party sponsored by Volvo under the suggestive headline, "Spend a Night with the Swedish Model of Your Choice." The caption underneath her photo reads "Rev Up Your Love-Life." Now, the recent Columbia University graduate, who modeled through college to help pay her tuition, is suing the company along with Hertz and her agency, Ford, for $23 Million.
A spokesperson for Volvo said in a statement that the ad was "a play on words" and "Swedish model" referred to cars not women. Giles isn't buying it. Her lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, told the Daily News, "It looks like something you'd see in the old yellow pages directories under escort services." He added, "It makes her look sleazy."
Giles was paid reportedly paid $2000 for the initial photo shoot. She discovered her picture online after an ex-boyfriend alerted her that he had seen it in an ad for Hertz car rentals in Argentina. She alerted Ford Models and asked them to enforce her contract, but she says, "They gave me the runaround." A little digging on the Internet and she found that her image was being featured (in addition to the single's website) in ads for different car models in more than 25 countries, rental cars, tourism, and also showed up in a report by Hertz to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Representatives from Ford and Hertz declined to comment due to the pending lawsuit.
"Even if I end up with nothing," she told ABC News, "I would just be happy if the industry standard changed and people started doing what they're supposed to do."
Indeed, Giles's case is not unique. Last year, the parents of teen model Hailey Clauson sued Urban Outfitters for $28 million for using "blatantly salacious" images, which were taken when their daughter was 15, without their permission. The pictures, which show Clauson in short cut-offs with a six-pack of beer, ended up on Urban Outfitters t-shirts and in a German fashion magazine.
Part of the problem is the ease with which images and video can circulate around the Internet and can be transformed in sometimes shocking ways. This is highlighted by a disturbing case that surfaced last week. New Jersey mom, MaryAnn Sauhory is suing the Meredith Corporation because an instructional breast-feeding video she volunteered to participate in ended up being spliced into a pornography video and sent around the web. "Sometimes I want to crawl into bed and say, 'God I wish it wasn't me,'" she told the Associated Press. If even corporations can't protect the privacy of their clients or employees, then individuals will need to be that much more vigilant.