A Canadian couple has won a lawsuit against Italy’s ruling party after they used a photograph of them with their newborn baby without permission in an anti-surrogacy campaign.
The image, which was taken by professional newborn photographer Lindsay Foster, showed the emotional moment Frankie Nelson and BJ Barone held their son Milo moments after he was born via surrogate in 2014.
Newborn photographer Foster captured the instant the overjoyed fathers held their baby in their arms against their bare chests for the first time in the act of skin-to-skin bonding.
A Powerful Image That Went Viral
Shortly after the image was taken, Foster asked Nelson and Barone, who are both teachers based in Toronto, Canada, asked if she could post the image on social media and the couple agreed.
The powerful photograph ended up going viral online and received significant media attention at the time.
However, amid the outpouring of praise for the image, Nelson and Barone discovered two years later that the photograph had been used in Italy’s far-right ruling party — in a campaign condemning surrogacy and same-sex parenting.
The far-right “Brothers of Italy” (Fratelli d’Italia) which is led by the current Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, used the photograph without the couple’s permission in 2016, when it was a small opposition party.
Brothers of Italy used the image in an anti-surrogacy campaign alongside the caption: “He will never be able to say ‘Mummy’. These are the rights of a child that must be defended.”
The Telegraph of London reports that Nelson and Barone heard about the political advert from a cousin living in Italy.
Posters featuring the couple were circulated around Italy by the far-right political group for an anti-surrogacy referendum they were pursuing at the time.
Offensive Use of The Image
Nelson and Barone decided to take legal action against the Brothers of Italy after making a plea for help on social media and receiving an offer from an Italian LGBTQ+ law firm to represent the couple pro bono.
Court proceedings against the political party went on for seven years. And earlier this month, Brothers of Italy were ordered to pay the couple €10,000 ($10,855) each for using the photo without permission. The Rome tribunal described the use of the photograph in the advert as “offensive.”
Brothers of Italy, which leads a three-party coalition government, is reportedly intending to appeal the decision.
“To us, our birth photo represents everything what we stand for; family, acceptance, and unconditional love,” Nelson tells the BBC.
“This victory against the Fratelli and the Prime Minister allows us to reclaim our photo, and show the world that family is about love.”
According to the BBC, Foster’s photo was also used without permission by independent Irish politician Mary Fitzgibbons in 2016 to push her platform against surrogacy for same-sex parents.