On March 5, 2013, Bassil A. Hamideh (Hamideh), a model-turned-attorney, filed a lawsuit against Dolce & Gabbana S.r.L. (D&G) for the unauthorized reuse of his image appearing in photographs taken in 2002 for a D&G advertising campaign. Hamideh seeks actual, statutory, and punitive damages, injunctive relief, restitution, disgorgement of profits, a constructive trust, attorneys’ fees and costs, and litigation costs.

According to the complaint, in 2002, D&G hired Hamideh to appear in a country chic advertising campaign.  While Hamideh signed a release granting D&G permission to use his image in certain media, Hamideh alleges that the permission expired on December 31, 2003. Thereafter, Hamideh became a lawyer to “protect models from defendants like [D&G] who use their images and likenesses without their consent for purposes of advertising their products and promoting their brands.” In April 2012, Hamideh sued D&G on behalf of his model client, Christian Monzon, based on the unauthorized use of Mr. Monzon’s image in D&G’s advertisements for its “Dolce Gabbana Classico Fragrance.” Mr. Monzon’s suit was dismissed. Then, as an alleged act of retaliation, on May 6, 2012, D&G used photographs containing Hamideh’s image from the 2002 campaign in a Facebook advertisement.

Hamideh asserts that D&G’s intentional use of his image from 2002 after the expiration of any license and in a media format not contemplated by the release, constitutes common law misappropriation, breach of obligation, and unjust enrichment under California law, and has caused him emotion distress.

Businesses in all industries, including fashion, media, and entertainment, regularly secure model releases for advertising campaigns. Due to the ability to easily create web content and the proliferation of social media advertising, companies should keep an inventory of its model releases to ensure that use of an image does not extend beyond the rights granted in a release or violate terms such as duration and authorized formats. Companies may also wish to consider whether the rights contained in a model release are sufficiently broad to encompass future unanticipated uses.