9/11 Advertisement Pulled After Firefighter Threatens Lawsuit

Last November NYC firefighter Robert Keiley posed for a stock photograph that showed him covered with soot and holding a helmet. Despite signing a release when the image was made, he was shocked when he found an edited version of the photo in an advertisement show him holding a picture of the Twin Towers on 9/11. The ad read “I Was There”, and was for a law firm specializing in 9/11 lawsuits. Keiley, previously a model, didn’t join the fire department until 2004. Now, the agency behind the ad has pulled it after Keiley announced intentions to sue. The news clip above shows two lawyers debating this case. Your thoughts?

(via A Photo Editor)

  • Seven Bates

    Wow, that’s a unique case. Legally, the model doesn’t have a case unless they can prove intent on the part of the ad agency to use the image for nefarious means, such as fraud. Even then, it’s still an uphill battle.

  • Brandon

    The guy has no case. He signed a generic stock photo release (I’m assuming). The ad agency can do whatever they want with the image. Not only that, but it clearly states on the ad that it’s a model portrayal.

  • Jonas Van Bogaert

    Man, fire the anchor please. Her intonation is so bad.

  • Kevin

    Let’s see the actual wording of the release. Typically they say the image (or work derived from the image) can be used for any reason. The issue of taking the helmet out and putting in a photo is a derived work. It will be interesting to see how this turn out.

  • Marc

    It all depends on the verbiage of the contract, but most likely he’s got no case. If he hadn’t become a fireman in the time between taking the photo and it being used in an ad then it wouldn’t be an issue. It’s just bad luck on his part.

  • White Hot Phoenix

    Unless this guy is famous and suing for defamation or something, he’s got no case. It sounds like he is just as bad as the lawyers for using 9/11 for personal profit.

  • Dave

    #1, how is he embarrassed by that? #2, switching a helmet for a picture and its like the sky is falling for the one lawyer #3, what did he think his fireman picture would be used for?

  • ranger9

    Normally I’d say a release is a release. But in this case, since he is represented as a firefighter who was there — when in fact he wasn’t then a firefighter and wasn’t there — he might be able to say that he is suing to avoid being a participant in false advertising.

    A release is a contract, and a legally valid contract can’t require performance of an illegal act — that’s why you can’t sue the hit man for breach of contract if he rats you out to the cops instead of assassinating your mother-in-law like you hired him to do.

    Of course I’m not a lawyer… but if I were a juror on this case, I’d think his position at least deserves a hearing.

  • Nino Tamburri

    The hyped up news presenter and overbearing lawyer are the worst part of this whole story

  • December

    I think the interesting aspect of this story is the concept of ‘intent’. Whilst the law may be on the side of the signed consent form, perhaps it is time for us to reconsider the language used in standard release forms. With the availablity and relatively ease of use of image manipulation software, surely we need to start rethinking the way we allow our licensed images to be used, in much the same way that Creative Commons has altered how we legally share and remix digital products. And the key here is obviously with the remix. By removing the helmet and replacing it with the photo AND with the addition of the words “I was there”, I believe the intent behind the photo has been irrevocably changed.

    Is there merit to bringing out a system that allows for a Creative Commons style of licensing that permits images to be remixed but to maintain the intent of the original photo?

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  • Anonymous

    I regret having watched that. More Talking Head TV.
    This is not an open and shut case, it should not have you been opened to begin with. The first lawyer is wrong, allowing the rights holder to do what they want with the photo is *exactly* what the release is for. It doesn’t matter if they ‘shopped in an image of a strangled kitten in the guy’s hands, it’s their photo to do with as they please if he signed a full release. The only this had any traction and they pulled the ad is because everyone is still super sensitive about 9/11 and they didn’t want the negative publicity.
    But photo release forms are what photogs and agencies rely upon to protect them in situations just like this. If he won this lawsuit, which I’m very doubtful he would have, release forms wouldn’t be worth the paper they’re written on for any of us.

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  • Streetspirit69

    Surely the ultimate decision rests with the photographer. If the photographer made it clear the image should not be altered as do many do,then it voids all documentation to do with the shoot as a whole. This means the model has a case and the law firm is in the wrong