ATLANTA — A Georgia woman whose image was used in advertisements for a Girls Gone Wild video without her authorization has grounds to sue the video’s producers under Georgia law, the state’s highest court ruled Thursday.
Lindsey Bullard was 14 in April 2000 when she exposed her breasts during spring break in Florida to a man with a video camera who later sold the clip for use in a Girls Gone Wild
Bullard sued, seeking damages in 2004 after her image was used on a video cover and in television and online advertisements.
A federal judge said Georgia law on the matter was unclear and asked the Georgia Supreme Court to clarify whether Bullard had a viable claim.
In a unanimous opinion, high court Justice Harold Melton wrote that Bullard has the right to sue for “appropriation of likeness” under Georgia law despite the tape’s being shot in Florida.
A lawyer for the companies that produced the videos argued before the Georgia Supreme Court in November that the videos are an expressive work of entertainment entitled to First Amendment protection and that Bullard’s image had no commercial value.
Bullard went to Panama City, Fla., for spring break in April 2000. While walking with two other girls, she was approached by two men with a video camera who asked the girls to show their breasts. Bullard flashed her chest and received a string of plastic beads.
The men later sold the video to MRA Holding Inc. and Mantra Films Inc., which included it in a video titled Girls Gone Wild, College Girls Exposed. An image of Bullard pulled from the video was put on the cover of the tape, with a banner over her breasts that said, “Get Educated!”
She said she was bullied by teachers and students and suffered mental anguish after the videos popped up on TV and the Internet.