Publicis Groupe and subsidiary ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi North America have asked a New York State Supreme Court Judge to dismiss charges leveled at them in a class action lawsuit alleging that they improperly used models’ images without proper authorization in ads made on behalf of clients.
The formal complaint was filed last month by model Louisa Raske, who charged that she and dozens of other models were cheated out of more than $20 million in fees by modeling agencies, such as Wilhelmina Models, Ford Models and Trump Model Management. Along with a number of ad agencies, the suit also charged several cosmetics makers including Revlon and Coty with unauthorized image use.
The agencies and marketers were not accused of willful misconduct, according to the suit. Raske alleges that the agencies and marketers were, in effect, duped by the modeling agencies into paying for the rights to use models’ images, based on contracts between models and modeling agencies that were not valid. That said, Raske contends in the suit that the agencies and their clients are still culpable.
But Publicis Groupe and Saatchi, the first agency entitled to respond to the specific allegations in the suit, argue otherwise. The holding company and its ad shop contend that the modeling agencies “authorized the use of the model images,” and that neither the ad agencies or their marketer clients “had any knowledge of the alleged malfeasance.” In addition, they added, the ad shops “merely represent the true end-users” and thus can’t be held liable for misuse of images in the ads.
Publicis and Saatchi argued that Raske lacked standing to sue them because “she had no alleged relationship with [them] and no injury arising from any alleged actions” of either the holding company or the agency. “Plaintiff has not alleged that she ever had any relationship—contractual, fiduciary or otherwise—with” either entity.
In her suit, Raske demanded an accounting from the agencies of specific ads in which her image was used. But Publicis and Saatchi argued that they were under no obligation to provide one. “Under controlling New York precedent the mere fact that plaintiffs may not be aware of the amounts to which they are entitled does not make a defendant a fiduciary, and does not entitle plaintiffs to an accounting from a defendant,” they stated.