American Shannon Stovall this week filed a US$20 million suit against Yahoo for allegedly using her photo without prior permission, in a welcome e-mail sent to new Yahoo users.
Stovall argues that Yahoo violated her right to privacy and right to publicity, which controls the commercial use of her identity.
It isn't clear yet how Yahoo obtained a copy of her picture, but, suppose it was taken from Stovall's blog--if she indeed has one--I wonder if her right to privacy can be a point that's as easily argued.
Commercial exploitations and copyright infringements aside, Stovall could very well have limited rights to privacy if she is a blogger because I view all bloggers--famous or otherwise--to be public figures.
By putting information about their personal lives on a public domain, i.e. the Internet, bloggers inevitably present themselves up as public entities. And public figures like politicians and celebrities, as most of us know, have a somewhat lesser right to privacy because their actions can be deemed to be of public interest.
David Beckham, for instance, failed in his bid to secure a High Court injunction to prevent a UK newspaper from publishing a report detailing his former nanny's allegations that they had an affair. In his ruling, the judge cited public interest as a reason for allowing the story to be printed.
The question is, though, whether bloggers keep this in mind each time they post a new entry about their latest escapade with a lover, or upload a picture of their newly augmented breasts.
It would be very interesting to see which way the court case would have turned if a blogger, rather than Beckham, was the plaintiff.
Fortunately for most bloggers out there, people have the tendency to pry into the personal lives of mainly famous figures. After all, where's the kick in rattling on someone whom no one wants to read about?
So if your blog is viewed only by a handful, you probably have nothing much to worry about.
Nonetheless, bloggers or anyone who's looking to put information about their personal life on the Net, need to start thinking more carefully about what they're really revealing about themselves.
Do you agree that you're surrendering some of your rights to privacy when you post personal information, such as a picture of yourself or a blog entry, on the Web?