Major Brouhaha Over ‘Harlem Shake’ Video

     WEST PALM BEACH (CN) – A Subway franchisee defamed a college student by taking a photo from his Facebook page and using it to make “WANTED” posters of him and posting them in dozens of Subway stores, the student claims in court.
     Orlando Guapo sued TimeSaver Food Stores Co. and its vice president Michael Gazzalla, in Palm Beach County Court. Guapo claims Gazzalla defamed him and invaded his privacy because the sandwich mogul was upset about a YouTube video of the Harlem Shake dance.
     Guapo claims that TimeSaver employees invited him to appear in the Harlem Shake, then gave him a copy of the video, which he posted online.
     The defendants then threatened to sue him if he did not remove the video from the Internet and apologize, he says in the complaint.
     Guapo claims the defendants even got the police involved, who confirmed that he had not broken any laws. So the defendants decided to “exact revenge” by “surreptitiously” obtaining photos from his Facebook page, creating “WANTED” posters of him, and posting them in its 25-30 Subway franchises in South Florida, according to the complaint.
     “On March 6, 2013, plaintiff was invited by TimeSaver/Subway employees to a Subway store located at 195 US 27, South Bay, Florida, owed and operated by TimeSaver,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff, along with approximately eight other individuals, was invited to participate in a recreational dance commonly known as ‘The Harlem Shake’ to occur on that same date.
     “Plaintiff accepted the invitation from TimeSaver’s employees, and in fact did attend and participate in a rendition of ‘The Harlem Shake.’ This performance of ‘The Harlem Shake’ was videotaped by one of the participants invited to participate in this dance, with TimeSaver’s employees’ knowledge and consent.
     “Thereafter, the video of the dance was provided to plaintiff by the individual who filmed it, and plaintiff uploaded the video on YouTube. This is the same harmless, recreational ‘The Harlem Shake’ dance that has been performed thousands of times within the past year throughout the United States, including, (per YouTube postings) at various other Subway stores, on the ‘Today Show,’ on airplanes, or even recently performed by the Miami Heat basketball team.
     “Notwithstanding the fact that plaintiff was invited by defendant TimeSaver to attend
     and participate in this dance at defendant’s Subway franchise, subsequently plaintiff began receiving threatening messages from defendant TimeSaver through its vice president of operations (Gazzalla), culminating with an undated certified letter demanding that plaintiff write a letter of apology to TimeSaver and Gazzalla, and to demand that plaintiff ensure that the YouTube postings of the video be removed. Defendants threatened plaintiff that if he failed to comply with defendants’ demands, defendants would criminally prosecute plaintiff further advising that ‘our attorneys are on standby to file the charges against you.’
     “Additionally, on March 19, 2013, despite the fact that plaintiff was invited onto defendant’s Subway premises to perform ‘The Harlem Shake,’ Gazzalla wrote plaintiff and accused plaintiff of committing the crime of ‘trespass,’ and the crime of ‘illegally filming.’
     “Plaintiff was absolutely bewildered and astounded that defendants could react with such anger and ill-will over eight young adults ‘having fun,’ performing a dance at a Subway shop that had no customers (the dance was performed immediately upon closing).
     “Nonetheless, defendants demanded, and were insistent that by the stroke of midnight on April 8, 2013, plaintiff: a) write a letter of apology to the defendants; b) agree to never again enter any of the defendant’s Subway (approximately 25-30) stores throughout South Florida; c) remove the YouTube video and destroy the video; and d) plaintiff agree to engage in written correspondence with Gazzalla.
     “Having done nothing improper, plaintiff refused defendants’ blackmail demands, including defendants’ time-imposed April 9, 2013, deadline for plaintiff to write a letter of apology to defendants.
     “Additionally, at some time prior to April 22, 2013, defendants had contacted the Palm Beach County Sheriffs office in an attempt to criminally prosecute plaintiff, but were informed by the Palm Beach County Sheriffs office that plaintiff had not engaged in any criminal conduct whatsoever.
     “Notwithstanding being advised that plaintiff had not engaged in any type of criminal activity, defendants chose to engage in ‘self-help’ remedies in an attempt to exact revenge upon plaintiff for plaintiff’s refusal to kowtow to defendants’ written demands (i.e. write a letter of apology for dancing in defendants’ store after being invited by defendants’ employees, etc.).
     “At all times material hereto, defendants TimeSaver and GazzaIla used the name of a third-party to gain entry to plaintiff’s Facebook account, allowing defendants to obtain a picture of plaintiff.
     “Thereupon, without any further notice to plaintiff, on April 22, 2013, defendants TimeSaver and Gazzalla posted what can best be described as ‘WANTED’ posters throughout its numerous stores, including all of its Subway stores in Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay. Each of the ‘WANTED’ posters displayed within defendants’ stores contains a large, blown-up photograph of plaintiff that defendants obtained from plaintiff’s Facebook account, downloading plaintiff’s picture, enlarging same, and then displaying in a public manner to cause embarrassment and public humiliation to plaintiff, currently a senior at the University of South Florida.
     “As a result of defendants’ actions, plaintiff has been inundated with telephone calls, emails, and text messages from various members of the community, and plaintiff has been subjected to contempt, scorn, ridicule and inquisitive notice by the general public.
     “On April 22, 2013, plaintiff, through counsel, wrote a letter to defendants demanding that defendant TimeSaver immediately cease and desist in its postings of blown-up photographs/posters throughout its Subway franchises. Defendants have refused to remove same.”
     Guapo also seeks damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress: “distrust, ridicule, contempt, embarrassment, mental anguish, the disturbance of plaintiff’s peace of mind and privacy.”
     He is represented by James Spitz.

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