You can stop the use of your image at a website for three reasons: invasion of privacy, violation of right of publicity or defamation.
- Invasion of Privacy – Invasion of privacy can occur if you are portrayed falsely and in a highly offensive manner. Your privacy may also be invaded if the photo was taken by someone who intruded on you in a situation in which you had a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is not an invasion of privacy to photograph someone in a public place or at any event where the public is invited.
- Violation of Right of Publicity – This occurs if your image is used for commercial purposes such as to sell products or to imply that you endorse a product. If the photo is used in a commercial website, one that derives profits from their services, the unauthorized use of your image would probably violate your right of publicity. As a test, the public must be able to identify you in the photograph.
- Defamation – You can also stop the website use if the photo defames you, which occurs when an image creates a false impression and injures your reputation. The fact that an unmodified photo is unflattering is not enough to claim defamation. The photo must falsely portray you and must cause people in the community to think less of you.
Should I Consult an Attorney if My Image Is Being Used?
If an internet website is using your image without your permission, you may want to contact an attorney about a possible lawsuit if the use of your image qualifies as an invasion of privacy, a violation of your right of publicity, or defamation. Since these areas are often complicated, the advice of an intellectual property attorney could be beneficial in determining the extent to which your rights have been violated and what legal options you have.