Models Sue Florida Strip Club Over Photo Use

     (CN) – Seven professional models claim in court that a Jacksonville, Fla. strip club pirated their photos and is using them to promote itself online.
     In a complaint filed in the Jacksonville Federal Court, the models claim the defendant Jacksonville Gold Club was an “unapologetic, chronic and habitual infringer” when it came to models’ photographs and using them for its own commercial gain.
     Club president Michael Tomkovich is also a named defendant.
     The models says they sent cease and desist letters to the defendants in September 2015, but Gold Club refused to remove the infringing imagery.
     “More than merely a misuse in connection with an innocuous brand or event, defendants have defamed and embarrassed plaintiffs by associating their images with Gold Club,” the complaint says.
     The models – Cielo Jean Gibson, Marketa Kazdova, Maysa Quy, Paola Canas, Sara Underwood, Tiffany Toth and Ursula Mayes – are at various stages of their careers. Some have appeared in, among others venues, department store ads and high-end fashion magazines.
     None of the women would have sold their images to a strip club, they say, because that would damage their careers.
     “Even if a model chose to jeopardize her career for a compromising engagement – such as appearing in an advertisement for a strip club – the fee she would charge would necessarily far exceed the fee typically charged for more mainstream and reputable work,” the complaint states.
     On its website, Gold Club describes itself “a premier exclusive gentlemen’s club that excels at providing sexy entertainment, bottle service, a full service steakhouse and VIP events.”
     In promoting these events, the models say, the club frequently uses their image on its Facebook and Twitter pages.
     In one example cited in the complaint, an image of Ursula Mayes, who appeared on the television game show “Deal or No Deal,” was used to advertise Gold Club’s “Tequila Thursday,” and various alcohol specials.
     Similarly, the models claim, a photograph of Sara Underwood, a television host and actress, in addition to being Playboy’s 2007 Playmate of the Year, appeared on Gold Club’s Facebook page promoting a new food menu.
     “Defendants gained an economic windfall by using the images of professional and successful models for defendants’ own commercial purposes, luring and enticing patrons worldwide to view the images and visit Gold Club, without having to compensate the models a single penny for such usage,” the complaint says.
     The plaintiffs also accuse Gold Club of attempting “to confuse consumers as to the general quality of attendees and participants of Gold Club and its events.”
     The plaintiffs seek at least $235,000 in damages on claims of a false advertising, unauthorized misappropriation of name and likeness, deceptive and unfair trade practices, civil theft, unlawful enrichment, unlawful conversion, unfair competition, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligence, and a violation of the Respondeat Superior doctrine.
     The plaintiffs are represented by Sarah Melissa Cabarcas of the Casas Law Firm in Miami, Fla.
     Representatives of the parties could not immediately be reached for comment.

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