Mom claims defamation and racism, sues over anti-abortion billboard with image of her daughter.

Remember the anti-abortion billboard from the Texas-based anti-abortion group Life Always, placed on a building in New York? The one that Adfreak said Rev. Al Sharpton planned to protest? The one that was hotly debated for racism, and had feminists fuming because it was strategically placed next to a Planned Parenthood? The one that was removed eventually, not by the sender but by the Billboard company Lamar Advertising?

Right, now that we're up to speed, here's the next chapter: the mother of the adorable 6-year old depicted in the ad, Tricia Fraser, who was quoted as saying "I would never endorse something like that" when it was up, has decided to sue reportes PDN Online.

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.”

Hang on a second, did she sign a model release or not? Yes, she did. But she says because the model release she signed expressly excluded "defamatory use of any photos taken on the shoot" she can still sue, and is doing just that.

The headline of the billboard read: The most dangerous place for an African American, is in the womb.

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Comments (4)

  • Leslie Burns's picture
    Leslie Burns (not verified)

    Generally speaking, if a non-specific release is signed, then the image can be used in pretty much any way as long as the use isn't defamatory. Here, that is the argument they are making--that the billboard was a defamatory use.

    It's a hard argument to make unless there is something really obvious like a photo of someone with the line "This is Bob. Bob has herpes." or the like. I don't think it will fly in this case. Especially if the group can prove the truth of the copy, because truth is a perfect defense to defamation.

    Of course, I am not a lawyer. At least not yet. :-)

    Apr 28, 2011
  • Matthew Field's picture
    Matthew Field (not verified)

    If she didn't want images of her daughter used, she shouldn't have sold stock images of her daughter or she should have been way more careful when signing the releases on her daughter's behalf. If she had that strong a conviction against abortion you would have though she would have gone out of her way to make sure a clause about that was included, or maybe the $$$ clouded her judgement.

    Apr 28, 2011
  • AnonymousCoward's picture
    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    How is the use "defamatory" if the statistics this headline is based on are true?

    Apr 28, 2011
  • AnonymousCoward's picture
    AnonymousCoward (not verified)

    She signed a release! If you want control, don't sign away your rights.

    May 01, 2011

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