New Zealand-born model Kata Greaney filed a $1.1 million lawsuit last month against cosmetics brand, Elizabeth Arden, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and MSA, a New York-based modeling agency, among others, in connection with an allegedly unauthorized use of her image. According to Greaney's complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of New York for claims of unfair competition, violations of New York Civil Rights Law, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract, the defendants used her image on the packaging of Elizabeth Arden bathrobes without her authorization and without compensating her for such usage. Greaney, who has walked for Prada, Catherine Malandrino, Karen Walker and Roberto Cavalli and appeared in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Marie Claire, shot the images at issue in 2011. The contract she signed specified that the images "would be used solely in connection with a pamphlet or brochure for the [White Plains, New York-based] spa" where the shoot took place, and in exchange, Greaney was paid $320. According to her complaint, "At no time during the photoshoot did anyone mention Elizabeth Arden, or that Ms. Greaney's image would be used on packaging in a national campaign in connection with Elizabeth Arden or Bed, Bath & Beyond."
Greaney further claims that in addition to the unauthorized usage of her image, the defendants failed to adequately compensate her for such usage, and that she "is typically paid upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars for the use of her image and likeness in this manner." In fact, the complaint goes on to state, "It is industry standard that for the usage of an image or likeness on packaging, front and back, for a national campaign for a national brand such as Elizabeth Arden that a model would be compensated at a minimum of between $20,000 and $50,000 per year." That's a lot more than the $320 she was paid!
And that's not all. Greaney alleges that "at all times," her agency, MSA, was "aware that London Luxury, FD Management and Bed, Bath & Beyond intended to use her image and likeness taken during the two hour Photoshoot at the spa on packaging, front and back, in connection with national campaign for the sale of a bathrobe." Despite such knowledge, MSA allegedly failed to inform Greaney of such usage and "to provide competent advice and counsel about such opportunities." Thus, Greaney alleges that MSA breached its "duty to secure the highest possible compensation for [her] for the use of her image and likeness … by allowing third parties to use her image and likeness for no fee at all or at a fee below the accepted industry standard for such usage by a model of [her] stature."
This type of lawsuit is unfortunately not completely foreign to the modeling industry. In fact, several similar lawsuits have been filed in the relatively recent past. You may recall that model Berenice Mosca filed a $1.6 million suit against L’Oreal USA Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and advertising firm R/GA Media Group Inc. for using her image on L'Oreal packaging without the authorization to do so. Before that, a group of models filed a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit against over seven model management companies, two advertising firms, L’Oréal USA Inc. (the American counterpart of the world’s largest cosmetics and beauty company) and Procter & Gamble for failing to compensate the models for the repeated use of their photos on product packaging. Other related lawsuits have centered on deceptive accounting practices by modeling agencies. More to come …