Model’s Lawsuit Against Urban Outfitters Moves Forward

By Connie Gibilaro [April 6th, 2012] 

In September 2011, CaseClothesed reported model Hailey Clauson’s lawsuit against Urban Outfitters. On March 12, 2012, New York federal judge George Daniels ruled that the lawsuit will go forward.

In April 2011, Clauson’s parents sued a photographer, two boutique stores, and the national retail chain Urban Outfitters, Inc. for $28 million after the stores began selling t-shirts with a photograph of Clauson in a provocative position on a motorcycle. Even though the image’s photographer allegedly agreed not to release it for publication, this image appeared on T-shirts sold by Urban Outfitters and two other stores, Blood Is the New Black and Brandy & Melville.

WWD reported that Judge Daniels ruled that Clauson showed sufficient cause that Urban used her image in violation of the New York Civil Rights Law, which forbids a person or corporation to use a living person’s name or picture for advertising purposes without that person’s written consent. Because Clauson was only fifteen when she posed for the pictures, New York Law requires that the photographer and Urban Outfitters obtain written consent from one of her parents before releasing the pictures to the public.

Although Clauson’s parents were aware of the pictures because they were present during the photo shoot in 2010, their presence does not rise to the level of “consent” under the New York Civil Rights Law.

According to the New York Times, photographer Jason Lee Parry didn’t have the correct rights to license the shot, and furthermore that he’d agreed not to release the provocative image of the then-15-year-old Clauson.

This is not the first time that Clauson has been caught in a controversy within the fashion industry. In February 2011, Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), accidentally casted 15-year-old Hailey Clauson in her runway show. The CFDA has strict guidelines that encourage designers to only hire models above the age of sixteen and to check IDs to ensure the age of models.

Clauson’s age has been a central issue in both controversies. In her case against Urban Outfitters, Clauson may have overcome the defendants’ motion to dismiss, but it is too early to say if she will win the lawsuit based on the merits.

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