Say Cheese! Photo Taken with Mobster not Actionable (NY)

Plaintiff attended the trial of the notorious mafia boss, John Gotti, and after court broke for the day, plaintiff decided to help Gotti maneuver through the throng of photographers and into Gotti’s car. A freelance photographer then took a picture of plaintiff holding Gotti’s arm. The photo was ultimately used in an advertisement for the television program, Inside the Mafia, and the ad appeared in posters throughout New York City.

Plaintiff filed suit in Alfano v. NGHT, et al, alleging that the unauthorized use of his image violated his privacy. The Court held, however, that the New York statute prohibiting the “commercial appropriation” of a living person’s image did not apply because of the “newsworthy” nature of the trial that was being photographed. The Court also held the advertisement was an “incidental use” of the image to illustrate the newsworthy content of the television program. The plaintiff’s other claims were also rejected and the court dismissed the complaint.