By Ben Goldstein
If you’ve spent a lot of time on the Internet, you’ve probably seen Meagan Simmons’s mugshot. On July 25th, 2010, the 25-year-old restaurant server was arrested on a DUI charge in Hillsborough County, Florida, and the resulting booking-photo went viral almost immediately, appearing in countless “sexy mugshots” roundups, and even spawning a meme known as “Attractive Convict.”
Simmons certainly deserved the attention. It’s hard to look good in a mugshot — really hard — and Meagan friggin’ nailed it. Thanks to her meme-notoriety, Simmons has collected thousands of followers on twitter and Instagram, and she seems comfortable with her Internet fame. What she doesn’t like is websites trying to profit off her face without paying her.
According to a report by the Tampa Bay Times, Simmons is suing the background check website InstantCheckmate.com for allegedly using her picture for commercial and advertising purposes, without compensating her or getting her permission. Her suit was spurred by the online ad shown below.
Simmons is seeking monetary damages and an injunction to prevent further use of her picture. From the Tampa Bay Times report:
“At the end of the day, this is actually about intellectual property,” [Simmons's attorney Matthew] Crist said. “If someone is going to use your image, they need to pay you for it.”
He likened the issue to Colgate using Tom Cruise’s image to sell toothpaste without his permission…
The distinction, Crist said, is that InstantCheckmate.com is using her image for obvious financial gain. The other pictures floating around are more for fun and enjoyment…
InstantCheckmate.com did not return a call for comment.
In the suit, Simmons alleges the exposure has disturbed her peace of mind, invaded her privacy and caused her anguish…
When asked how the situation caused her mental anguish, Crist said it was early in the lawsuit and the main point was that what InstantCheckmate.com was doing was illegal.
“The legal issue is it’s your face, and your name. You own it,” he said. “You can use it, you control it and when someone misappropriates it — that’s when you’re violating Florida law.”
So what do you think? Does Meagan have a case here, or does your face become public domain after you become a meme? Let us know what you think on twitter @holytaco, and check out some of our favorite Attractive Convict memes and recent Megan Simmons photos in the gallery above. You know, just for “fun and enjoyment.”