‘Girls Gone Wild’ case before state high court

A Cartersville woman whose photo was used in ads for a racy video never consented to such a thing and deserves compensation for the humiliation it brought upon her, the woman’s lawyer told the state Supreme Court on Monday.

A lawyer for the two production companies named in the woman’s lawsuit told the justices that by agreeing to expose her breasts to a cameraman, the woman, then a middle school student, had consented to the use of her image for commercial purposes. He also said the companies’ actions are protected by the First Amendment.

Lindsey Bullard, who is now 26, was 14 when she was stopped by a man holding a video camera as she walked down the strip in Panama City, Fla., on spring break. When the man asked her to step into a nearby parking lot and expose her breasts, Bullard complied and was given a beaded necklace in return.

The cameraman later sold the video for “Girls Gone Wild, College Girls Exposed,” and a photo of Bullard exposing her breasts was put on the cover and used in TV commercials aired nationwide. The phrase “Get Educated!” in block letters was placed across her breasts to shield them from view on the cover, but a 5-second clip of Bullard exposing herself is on the video.

On Monday, Bullard’s lawyer told the Georgia Supreme Court that the cover photo of Bullard used during the ad campaign was a misuse of her image for commercial purposes.

“She wouldn’t in her wildest dreams have guessed her image would be used by a pornographic company,” attorney Jeff Banks said.

Bullard filed suit against the “Girls Gone Wild” production companies in 2004. Her case is pending before a federal judge in Atlanta who asked the state Supreme Court to answer questions about Georgia law to help her decide whether the case should go to trial. The court is expected to issue a decision sometime next year.

Scott Carr, a lawyer for the video production companies, said Bullard implicitly consented to use of her photo when she agreed to expose herself. “She had no reasonable expectation of privacy,” he said. “When you’re in public and expose yourself like that, that’s it.”

Carr added, “Regardless of how offensive people might find this video, it is an expressive work of entertainment and is entitled to First Amendment protection.”

Justice David Nahmias, however, was not so sure.

Even if it can be determined Bullard had consented to be photographed and videotaped, was it permissible for Bullard’s picture to be put on the video’s cover and used in the ad campaign? he asked.

Did putting her photo on the cover, with the phrase “Get Educated!” across her chest, imply that Bullard was endorsing the video series? Nahmias asked. If a cereal maker put the late baseball slugger Mickey Mantle’s photo on the cover of its boxes, that would appear as if Mantle endorsed the cereal, the justice said.

Bullard also was not a college student at the time she was videotaped, but the video says it is about college girls exposing themselves, he noted.

“She was not a college girl gone wild,” Nahmias said.

In an interview last week, Bullard, who is married with a newborn daughter, said in high school she was humiliated by fellow students, coaches and teachers who had seen her “Girls Gone Wild” photo on TV commercials. She accused the production companies of exploiting her for making a poor decision at the time by exposing herself to a cameraman.

On Monday, Banks said a prosecutor could have charged the cameraman with child molestation for asking the 14-year-old to expose her breasts to him. “You can’t have a First Amendment right to publish child molestation,” he said.

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