Actress wins nude photo battle

Summary:Former sitcom star set to sue more Web sites following $230,000 court victory.

In what is believed to be the first decision of its kind, a federal judge has ordered the operator of an Internet site to pay $230,000 to actress Alyssa Milano for publishing nude photographs of her without her permission.

The default judgement -- believed to be the first awarding monetary damages for the online publication of nude photos of celebrities -- was handed down Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Ronald Lew in Los Angeles.

In addition to ordering Web site owner John Lindgren of Minnesota to pay Milano the money, Lew also barred him from posting more nude photos of the former "Who's the Boss" star on nudecelebrity.com and ordered him to pay $8,200 for her attorney fees.

Two other Web sites removed the offending photos and agreed not ot publish others as part of out-of-court settlements, Milano's attorney, Mitchell Kamarck, said. But Lindgren, who lives in Minnesota, did not respond to the lawsuit Milano filed against him in April, prompting Lew to issue the default judgment.

Lindgren could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but in April, the then-21-year-old told the Los Angeles Times that he intended to remove the Milano photos from his site once he received "something really serious" from her attorney. By Wednesday, Milano's name wasn't found on Lindgren's Web site, which boasts of having 1,000 nude photos of actresses such as Alicia Silverstone and Yasmine Bleeth.

The lawsuit filed by Milano, who played actor Tony Danza's daughter for eight seasons on "Who's the Boss," accused the Web site operators of misappropriating her identity and violating her right to be compensated for the use of her image.

Many photos fakes
Many of the photos purportedly showing Milano in the altogether are in fact "pasties," fake photos created by using computer graphics programs to join her head onto someone else's body, said Kamarck, a partner with the Beverly Hills firm of Rosenfeld, Meyer and Susman. Others are still frames from "Embrace of the Vampire," a move that Milano starred in and in which she briefly appeared in the buff, he said.

Kamarck said his client will donate the proceeds of her lawsuit to founding a new Internet site, Safesearching.com, which is to be formally launched in mid-January though it is currently online in beta mode. The site, which Kamarck described as "a family friendly, Hollywood friendly Web site," features entertainment news and links to fan pages that don't traffic in celebrity nude photos.

Other sites will be sued
Kamarck indicated that other Web site operators offering photos of Milano, who also has appeared in the television show "Melrose Place" and in such movies as "Poison Ivy 2" and "Fear," either are being or will be sued.

"We don't want to ruin these Web sites," Kamarck said. "Basically we want to educate and have them remove the material."

Milano has been at the forefront of celebrities' efforts to gain control over how their images are used on the Internet.

Since her legal fight began, she and her mother, Lin, founded the Los Angeles firm Cyber-Tracker to track the unauthorized use of celebrities' likenesses and attempt to force Web site operators to remove them. If initial requests to remove the image are unsuccessful, legal action follows.

Other celebrities have had less luck trying to get nude photos and embarrassing videos of them removed from the Internet, where a cottage industry has sprung up based on photos of famous -- or supposedly famous -- naked bodies.

Attempts by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the renowned radio therapist, seeking to force the Seattle-based Internet Entertainment Group to remove a dozen nude photos of her failed in November. In dismissing her claims of invasion of privacy and copyright infringement, a federal judge ruled that the photographer held the copyright to the 25-year-old photos since Schlessinger posed willingly for them.

In lifting the temporary restraining order prohibiting IEG from selling the photos of the author of "The Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up their Lives," the judge allowed her to pursue her lawsuit alleging invastion of privacy and misuse of her publicity.

Also unsuccessful was "Baywatch" star Pamela Lee Anderson, who sued IEG over sex videos featuring her and ex-husband Tommy Lee, the drummer of the rock band Motley Crue. She still has a second lawsuit pending against IEG, however, over a second sex video in which she cavorts with Bret Michaels, the lead singer of Poison.

Reuters contributed to this story.

Topics: Legal, Privacy

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