Yasin v. Q-Boro Holdings LLC

Tasleema Yasin, Plaintiff, v. Q-Boro Holdings LLC and Urban Books LLC, Defendants. 2010 NY Slip Op 50742(U). 13259/09.

Supreme Court, Kings County. 

Decided April 23, 2010.

Case Details

The Plaintiff, Tasleema Yasin, alleges unlawful use of her photo without her consent on the cover of a book published by Q-Boro Holdings, LLC and Urban Books, LLC entitled Baby Doll. This fiction book is published by defendants, and it is commercially distributed by retailers including Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.

Yasin requests a permanent movement to prohibit the further sale, display, and use of her image by defendants and for an award of partial summary judgment on the issue of liability. The Defendants move to dismiss Yasin’s complaint.

Plaintiff’s Argument

Yasin states that in 2005 she hired photographer Frank Antonio Aleman to take her photos for the purpose of promoting her career as a singer and songwriter. She did not sign any release allowing Mr. Antonio or any other person to use her photograph. In June 2008, Yasin learned that her image appeared on the front cover of the book. In May, 2009, Yasin’s attorney sent cease and desist letters to defendants.

Defendants’ Argument

The defendants’ attorney stated that Mr. Antonio certified that he had obtained the necessary release for the image. Yasin instituted the instant action against defendants for commercial misappropriation of her picture in violation of the state’s statutory right of privacy.

New York does not recognize a common-law right to privacy – however, it is a misdemeanor to use a person’s name, portrait or picture for advertising or trade purposes without having first obtained the written consent of such person under Civil Rights Law § 51. The elements of a cause of action under Civil Rights Law § 51 are (1) the use of a person’s name, portrait, picture (2) for advertising purposes or for the purpose of trade, (3) without written consent.

In the instant matter it is undisputed that defendant’s used Yasin’s picture without her written consent. The only issue therefore, is whether the picture was used for advertising’ or trade’ purposes. Here, defendants contend that their use of Yasin’s picture in a fictional work is constitutionally protected under the First Amendment and does not violate Civil Rights Law §51.

Summary and Conclusion

It is undisputed that there is no relationship between Yasin’s picture and the subject matter contained in the book; which is admittedly a pure work of fiction that neither references Yasin by name or otherwise identifies her as a character in the book. In view of the foregoing, the defendants unauthorized use of Yasin’s image on the front cover of the Baby Doll book violates her statutory right to privacy pursuant to Civil Right’s Law § 51. Accordingly, plaintiff Yasin’s motion for a permanent injunction is granted and the defendants’ are prohibited from further selling, displaying, or using her image.