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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Professor Says Google Spot Humiliates Him

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - An adjunct computer sciences professor at Virginia's Old Dominion University claims that Google's use of a prank video of him in a commercial touting Android phones has made him an object of ridicule.

Timothy Werner sued the Internet giant in Norfolk, Va. Federal Court, complaining of his "role" in "Handshake," a 60-second Android spot that debuted in February.

"The commercial ... features a montage of footage of professional basketball players, amateur athletes and various other persons successfully executing intricate and/or choreographed handshakes, fist bumps and/or similar celebratory acts in tandem or in groups set to upbeat 'classic hip hop' background music," the complaint says.

Werner appears about 43 seconds into the spot.

"In contrast to the other persons depicted in the Android Commercial, Plaintiff appears confused by the attempt of another individual to engage him in an elaborate 'fist bump' and throws up his hands in apparent frustration and/or confusion," the complaint says.

According to Werner, the footage of him originated in a hidden camera "prank" video recorded on the Old Dominion campus in August 2014, and later posted to YouTube by a Norfolk teenager going by the pseudonym "Trey Prankz."

In the video, entitled "Awkward Fist Bumping," Trey Prankz accosts unwitting strangers on the campus and asks for directions. "Upon the receipt of the requested directions, he would then attempt to engage the strangers in an elaborate first bump routine for the purpose of filming their reactions," the complaint says.

Werner says he was one of the unwitting strangers caught on camera, and he complains that his depiction in the Android commercial "appears calculated to use him as comic relief and to portray him as awkward and worthy of ridicule in comparison to persons depicted in the remainder of the Android commercial."

He goes on to say he didn't know his encounter with Trey Prankz was filmed, and that never gave any consent, commercial or otherwise for the use of his likeness.

Werner says the commercial's depiction of him has caused him "embarrassment and humiliation as well as a loss of dignity and invasion of privacy."

He seeks compensatory, actual and exemplary damages. and injunctive relief, on claims of unjust enrichment, and violations of Virginia's Consumer Protection Act and invasion of privacy statute.

Werner is represented by Steven Wiley and Todd Gaynor of Norfolk.

Wiley told Courthouse News that he attempted to reach out to Google before filing the lawsuit, but received no response.

Neither Google nor Trey Prankz responded to requests from Courthouse News for comment.

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