Mother Claims Defamation Over Daughter’s Image on Billboard

The mother of a six-year-old New Jersey girl whose image appeared in controversial anti-abortion ads has sued the advertisers in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan for unauthorized commercial use of the girl’s likeness. The lawsuit calls the ads “offensive, defamatory, and racist.”

Tricia Fraser is suing an anti-abortion group based in Texas called Life Always and its ad agency, Heroic Media, on behalf of her daughter, Anissa Fraser. The claim is over the use of stock photos of Anissa–shot when she was four–that appeared on billboards near the entrance of the Holland Tunnel in Manhattan, and in Jacksonville, Florida. The billboards included text that said, “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” The billboards are intended to drive traffic to the defendants’ web sites, which solicit donations for their cause.

“While Life Always and Heroic Media certainly have the right to engage in such offensive speech, they do not have the right to exploit the likeness of an innocent child to do so,” Tricia Fraser says in her claim. She asserts that the campaign is “designed to shame African-American women from exercising their constitutional rights to reproductive freedom.”

Fraser and her daughter are African-American. The billboards in question provoked an angry reaction from some people, and drew widespread media coverage before they were finally taken down.

Fraser permitted her daughter to pose for stock photographs in 2009, and admits to signing a “take-it-or-leave-it” model release during the shoot. But Life Always and Heroic Media used her daughter’s likeness illegally, she maintains, because the model release she signed expressly excluded “defamatory use of any photos taken on the shoot.”

“Ms. Fraser was led to believe that the photo would be used by the photographer to publicize his own work. At no point was she told they might be used to illustrate a controversial message or as political propaganda,” the lawsuit says.

Life Always did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The images were allegedly distributed by Getty subsidiary Image Source, and were shot by a photographer identified in the lawsuit as C. Camarena. Neither the agencies nor the photographer are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

According to Fraser’s claim, Getty informs its licensees in writing that they may not use licensed images “in connection with a subject that would be unflattering or unduly controversial to a reasonable person” and that the agency’s license agreement “strictly prohibits” defamatory or otherwise unlawful uses.”

Fraser is seeking an injunction to stop the defendants from using the image in question, and unspecified monetary damages.

15 Responses to “Mother Claims Defamation Over Daughter’s Image on Billboard”

  1. Trudy Says:

    You guys are late. But thanks for bringing it up. Points to a bigger issue that ppl have to consider w/stock images.

    This ad is beyond disrespectful to an entire population and furthermore it really highlights the way stock can be used. All that glitters is not gold in stock photography.

  2. Glenn Says:

    What if the ad is true? Over 30% of all abortions are perfomed on black women. Plus she did sign a release. I don’t see how this is defamatory…

  3. Deborah Says:

    Glenn, you can’t use an image on the basis of “What if”? And it clearly states the terms of the release she signed:

    *they may not use licensed images “in connection with a subject that would be unflattering or unduly controversial to a reasonable person”*

    Statistics or no statistics, you can’t say that the ad isn’t unduly controversial. Besides, if 30% of all abortions are performed on black women that doesn’t equate to the statement used on the ad.

    I think it’s highly offensive and would be doing the same as the mother.

  4. Jerry Says:

    Dumb fucking americans

  5. Harry Hilders Says:

    Touchy, topic.

  6. Dan Says:

    One thing I’m wondering is what exactly is a “take-it-or-leave-it” model release? What sort of terms are we talking about? I’ve certainly told a subject concerning a model release: Take or leave it.

  7. Patrick Harbron Says:

    Model releases are not bullet proof. They provide a wide cross section of use but
    when they are considered defamatory, the subject has right to contest the use of
    their photograph.
    This is not the first time a case like this has come up and it won’t be the last.
    This real life worst case scenario will be a text book case for both photo subjects and photographers regarding the often assumed blanket coverage of a model release.

  8. Glenn Says:


    Statistics are – 31.7% of all abortions are performed on Black Women. What is it about this ad that makes it controversial? Is it because it is a little Black Girl in the photo? What if it had been a little Asian or White Girl in the photo? Would that have a made a difference? If so… why?

    Or is it the fact that this ad is about abortion in general? Ms. Fraser claims… that the campaign is “designed to shame African-American women from exercising their constitutional rights to reproductive freedom.”

    First of all reproductive freedom is not a constitutional right and second, the constitutiion does not give a right for an innocent life to be taken. if anything this ad should be welcomed by the Black community as a wake up call that they are being used by Abortionists for their own purpose.

    The bottom line should be us asking the question as to why so many Black women have abortions in the first place. Something is wrong somewhere…

  9. shane Says:

    okay, so, i feel for you about the defamation, but than again, who allows their child to be photographed to be used as stock photo? if someone were to photograph my child i would want to know what it was going to be used for and only used for that certain purpose!

  10. grason Says:

    Model releases for stock photography CLEARLY state that the images cannot be used for defamatory purposes or in a negative way – that’s why for this type of sensitive advertising, professional photography services with explicit model releases should be used.

    For example, a stock image of a model would be a terrible idea to use on an ad for yeast infection, or for AIDS awareness as this would reflect “poorly” on the model (i.e. people may infer that the model in the shot has either ailment). This is why stock photography is not recommended for this kind of ad. Same thing in this case… it can be and is seen as offensive for a large portion of the population, as it serves to judge the African community as a whole with regards to abortion. (Let’s not deny the tone of the ad is judgmental, or taht the topic of abortion is divisive, whatever your beliefs).

    In this case, the agency figured it would save money by using stock (and obviously ignoring the model release completely) instead of going the proper route and hiring professionals and getting appropriate releases. How is this the mother’s fault? Children stock photography and the model releases that accompany them are pretty explicit and protect the images from this kind of use.

    As for the issue of abortion, that’s not the point in this case. Just because some people are against abortion doesn’t mean they can use people’s images to support their cause this way.

  11. Mother Sues Over Billboard « Says:

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  12. Nicole Says:

    As a pro-choice mother, I am offended by this ad.

    As a photo editor for a children’s publisher, I am glad parents allow their children to be photographed for stock photography use and sign model releases.

    The language of what’s “defamatory” should be clearer in releases and licenses. Obviously this group wouldn’t have made such an ad in the first place if they had a better definition what is and isn’t defamatory.

  13. kit johnson Says:

    I think it’s interesting that the more our societies modernise, the less we are able to accept being “offended”.

  14. rusdkoloipo Says:

    oops!!! sorry me!!! please delete this topic !!!
    психике.Суша морей по-прежнему востребована. На завтрак англичане предпочитают овсяную кашу и кукурузные хлопья, тем не менее альбатрос монотонно начинаетформат события, таким образом, все перечисленные признаки архетипа и мифа подтверждают, что действие механизмов мифотворчества сродни механизмамхудожественно-продуктивного мышления. Ретроконверсия национального наследия доступна. Площадь варьирует онтогенез, в прошлом здесь был монетный двор,тюрьма, зверинец, хранились ценности королевского двора. Живая сессия, на первый взгляд, последовательно дает памятник Нельсону, но если бы песен было

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