The rights and wrongs of Ashley Alexandra Dupre's MySpace photos

The issue over the use of photos of Ashley Alexandra Dupre taken from social networking sites like MySpace has just taken another twist.

Ashley Alexandra DupreHer court-appointed attorney, Kelley Drye’s Don D. Buchwald, has attacked the media for invading his client’s privacy.

The press release (PDF) from the attorney says the alleged call girl was “thrust into the public glare at age 22 without her consent”.

He goes on to accuse some outlets of violating journalistic norms by using suggestive photos of Ashley for commercial gain. The release suggests that “certain of those photos were obtained in violation of Ms. Dupre’s privacy rights and federal copyright law”, adding that the use of these “may well constitute violations of federal copyright laws”.

The photos are everywhere, with some sites like Gawker boasting of “Kristen: The Definitive Gallery“.

According to some reports, the impetus for the press release was the photo spread in the New York Post, which had a half dozen images of Dupre in its print edition and 20 online. The pictures are credited in the paper to Wesley Mann at Contact Press Images.

Many of the images published by other news outlets came from MySpace. The AP distributed three of those images, including the one of her in a bikini, with a disclaimer authorising the use of the photos only with reports or commentary on the Spitzer scandal. Reuters also ran the photos, crediting MySpace.

Aside from the issue of whether it is ethical to take material from social networking sites, there is the question of copyright. According to MySpace terms and conditions, “this limited license does not grant MySpace the right to sell or otherwise distribute your Content outside of the MySpace Services”.

The BBC is introducing new rules that would restrict BBC journalists from using pictures from social media site without the permission of the copyright owner. In this case, is the AP the copyright holder, or is there a public interest argument for their publication?

Even though the photos are everywhere online, her attorney has warned that “as counsel for Ms Dupre we will take all steps that we deem necessary or appropriate to protect Ms Dupre from any unwarranted exploitation of her name, picture, voice, or likeness for purposes of profit”.

This seems to be a mammoth, and on the face of it, impossible task. A quick search on Google Image Search yields more than 5,000 photos.

The lawyers can’t expect to sue every blog that has republished the photos. But they could go after big media outlets that have resources and a reputation to protect.

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