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Minor Loses Wet T-Shirt Exploitation Lawsuit

(CN) - A 17-year-old girl who participated in wet T-shirt contests in Daytona Beach over spring break failed to prove that the promotoers and observers who took videos and pictures of the event had contributed to the sexual exploitation of a minor, the 11th Circuit ruled.

When she was two months shy of 18, Julie Amanda Tilton and several friends spent their spring break in Daytona Beach, Fla., at the Desert Inn Resort Motel. While there, Tilton participated in two wet T-shirt contests, a "banana sucking contest," a "muff eating contest" and a "sexual positions" contest in front of 300 to 400 people, many of whom had video cameras.

One of the videographers was a DJ hired by the hotel's owner, Deslin Hotels. Deslin later used the footage in a promotional video.

Additional photos were taken by Chad Ciani, owner of BV & BK Productions, who posted his pictures, along with video footage he obtained from another observer, on his Web site,

Tilton sued Deslin Hotels, Ciani, Playboy Entertainment Group and others, claiming they participated in the sexual exploitation of a minor. She accused Deslin of inducing her to engage in "sexually explicit conduct," and said Ciani knowingly distributed photographs of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct. She won a default judgment against Paul Prewitt, another videographer who sold footage of the contest.

The federal appeals court in Atlanta held that Tilton's conduct did not create "the realistic impression of an actual sex act," and that the evidence did not depict "lascivious exhibition" of her genitals.

The appellate court also tossed her claims that Deslin induced her to engage in sexually explicit conduct and promoted an atmosphere that it knew would encourage sexually explicit conduct that others might photograph.

Judge Pryor said Tilton had misinterpreted the laws establishing liability.

"Tilton has produced no evidence that Deslin induced her to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of that conduct," Pryor wrote.

The court upheld summary judgment for Ciani, because Tilton could not prove that the photographer knew she was a minor when he posted her images on his Web site.

The three-judge panel dismissed all of the claims, but remanded for reconsideration of attorney fees. Judge Pryor said the lower court failed to explain why it had denied fees over Tilton's default judgment against Prewitt.

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