Anti-Gay Group Sued for Unauthorized Use of Photo in Attack Ads

©Kristina Hill

The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued an anti-gay group for unauthorized use of a photograph of a gay couple in political attack ads in Colorado earlier this year.

SPLC sued the Virginia-based Public Advocate for the United States (PAUS) for violating the copyrights of photographer Kristina Hill of Brooklyn, New York. The suit also alleges that PAUS unlawfully appropriated the likenesses of the couple in the photograph–Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere.

Public Advocate of the United States, which SPLC classifies as a hate group because of its anti-gay propaganda, used Hill’s photo last spring in campaign ads against Colorado state senator Jean White (who had voted in favor of allowing same-sex unions in Colorado) and against Jeffrey Hare, a candidate for the Colorado house of representatives. The ads were distributed as mailers.

Hill’s image of Edwards and Privitere, shot during an engagement session, shows them kissing with a New York skyline in the background. Edwards ended up posting the image on his blog, with Hill’s permission.

PAUS downloaded the image, stripped out the background, and replaced it with backgrounds of two different Colorado landscapes for the unauthorized campaign mailers. PAUS superimposed text that read “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘family values?'” in one mailer and “Jeffrey Hare’s Vision for Weld County?” in the other ad.

White was defeated in her re-election race.

“I cringe every time I look at what once was one of our favorite photos,” Edwards said in a press release issued by SPLC when it filed the lawsuit today. “All I see now is the defiled image used to attack our family and our community. All we want is justice for the pain that Public Advocate has caused us. ”

An SPLC attorney said in the press release: “This was just a cheap way for Public Advocate to avoid having to pay for a stock photo to use in their hateful anti-gay attack ad. It was nothing short of theft.”

Hill, Edwards and Privitere are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

Related stories:
Civil Rights Group Demands End to Use of Same-Sex Couple Photo in Anti-Gay Ad
Wedding Photographer Might Sue for Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad

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5 Responses to “Anti-Gay Group Sued for Unauthorized Use of Photo in Attack Ads”

  1. Legal Eagle Says:

    It would seem that the photograph was used without permission, and that a penalty is in order. However, it would be good to learn some lessons from this that the story seems unable to provide. For instance; If the photograph had been registered with the copyright office prior to it being used for the first time, then the penalties would be substantially higher. Assuming that it was not registered the photographer and her legal representation at the Southern Poverty Law Center can expect significantly less. The flood of stories concerning this case is merely an attempt to strong arm the bad actors.


    The Southern Poverty Law Center is a sleazy vicious leftist organization which engages in legal shakedowns and “lawsuits for political profit.” And for cash profit. As far as this suit, as Legal Eagle points out supra, if the work wasn’t timely registered, then the plaintiff isn’t due more than a pittance. That said, it was asinine for the accused misuser to simply take a photo; they could easily have had one shot to order or gotten it from a stock photo agency.

  3. Laura Kaczmarek Says:

    First of all, the APLC is awesome. They take on groups such as the KKK and other hate groups that no one else is capable of touching – and they win. And we all know that most photographers do not register their photos with the copyright office. The amount of damage the jerks at this “Public Advocate for the US” has done to the couple in the photo is greater than the damage done to the photographer. I hope the judge throws the book at them.

  4. Nhxp Says:

    Who’s the SPLC ?

  5. Legal Hawk Says:

    Has anything changed from the previous posting of this story, or did that publicity fail to generate enough enthusiasm?