Happy New Year ! And I am back with a boom. The photography world is awaiting the verdict in an unprecedented case of a model suing a photographer for her images being used in a manner that does not please her at all. Glamour model Nikkie Forni sues photographer Joshua Resnick in the lawsuit Forni v. Resnick, et al. for $500,000 – after getting paid and signing a model release!
Cleveland, Ohio born glamour model Nicole (Nikkie) Forni seems to be out for a get-rich-quick scheme and in her quest for wealth she is taking no prisoners. Nikkie Forni is suing Josh Resnick because images of a photo shoot ended up on several adult sites. The glamour model, 23, says she agreed to the photo shoot back in January 2013 with Resnick on the “unconditional promise” that the glamour shots would not be used in a “directly or indirectly, in any adult-oriented, pornographic, or obscene manner” according to court papers. Before she could blink the Ohio knock-out found herself posing as the unwilling face of fantasy porn such as “Horny Housewives of Dubai: Episode 4”, “Vixen in Vegas” and “Hollywood Sex Honey: Part 2”. She even shortly became the face of Switzerland based escort service superescort.ch.
Nikkie Forni now seems to act like a bull in a China shop, suing the photographer, but also moguls like Shutterstock, Playboy, Amazon and Barnes & Noble and 33 other defendants. From the court documents it became clear that she is “demanding relief of damages against Defendant Resnick in excess of $75,000.00, plus disgorgement of all revenue and/or profits obtained from Plaintiff’s photos or images” plus “attorney fees, costs and punitive damages“, on 6 counts, adding up to over $500,000. From the other 37 odd defendants she is demanding around $225,000 each.
The problems started back in 2013 when the photographer was informed that the model was planning on taking him to court. Resnick himself says this about the matter: “I am being sued in federal court for hundreds of thousands of dollars by a model I worked with in January 2013. This is a model that I paid, and who signed a release allowing me to sell her images through stock photo agencies. Why I am I being sued? It revolves around images that got misused or were just outright stolen and the model is blaming me for it. My case has unfortunately received national attention in the New York Post, the daily mail and Fox News, none of which have bothered to explain my side of the story.“
So it seems that both the photos and the story went viral. Not a surprise really, in 2014, when everyone has a MAC/PC, smartphone, tablet, phablet, and there are a zillion hackers out there stealing photos and offering them for free on another zillion websites. They are all full 39mp resolution original images these hacks got from who-knows-where. Stock photographers recognise this is a major problem to them. Anyone could be using those stolen images because of those pirates and then a model comes out to sue the photographer.
Meanwhile Nikkie Forni says on her Facebook page “When I photograph I always think of two words- sexy and classy. It’s what defines our femininity as women. I choose to show enough sexy but leave enough mystery for the viewer. I can firmly say I have never been ashamed of any photograph I’ve taken, and proudly so“. That photograph in question certainly has caused “serious emotional distress and humiliation to the Plaintiff“. I mean, it’s not that she is afraid to show some skin.
Forni allegedly posted the photo and other shots of the photo shoot on her Facebook page. In the court documents her lawyer Michael J. O’Shea writes that “many of the photos improperly sold by Defendant Resnicjk were and continue to be sold through a website operated by Defendant Shutterstock.” It seems that the busty bombshell is pretty adamant the photos weren’t lifted from her Facebook page. Yet this photo, from the same photo shoot, is still available for the entire internet to copy and paste.
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The photography community is pretty sure that Nikkie Forni will lose the lawsuit and that Joshua Resnick will win the case. Unfortunately Josh is always going to lose no matter what the verdict will be. Resnick is facing a huge financial burden to protect himself from what he calls a “misconception”. Resnick reached out to the community on MSG, asking to support him with this lawsuit.
Quoting Resnick: “She was an experienced lingerie and implied nude model, appearing on a magazine cover in such apparel. I told her agent before the shoot it would be used for stock photography. During the shoot I also told the model that the images would be for sale for stock photography and explained how stock photography works. I explained to her that these agencies prohibit pornographic use in their terms of service.. Another person who often helped me from time to time was present during the shoot and witnessed everything. I said nothing more and I didn’t lie. I did NOT promise her that her images would not be misused – it is impossible in our right-click-save-as days. She saw the images before signing the model release, was happy with them and posted them herself on her Facebook page.”
He then goes on to say: “Another misconception is that our arrangement was TFP or Trade for Portfolio use. I paid her via her agent through Paypal and have all the records of it, even providing her gas money to travel to Columbus.“
I think it is indeed an important case for all photographers and the agencies out there. If this model wins this case, my prediction is that we will see a lot more cases like this. It means that a signed model release is no longer sufficient to protect photographers. Resnick is using up all his funds to protect himself. In order to keep fighting he needs more funds and is asking for donations. If you want to donate, please follow the link to his gofundme page http://www.gofundme.com/resnicklegalfund. However they do take out 7.9% in fees and an additional 30 cents per donation, so alternatively, you can also donate directly via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. I have donated because I think this case is important to all of us, and I want to help a fellow photographer in distress.
Luckily Resnick is being assisted in a New York court by the very experienced attorney Nancy E. Wolff, recognised as Super Lawyer in Intellectual Property. She certainly seems to know what she is doing, which I can’t really say for the plaintiff’s lawyer Michael J. O’Shea.
I wish Joshua all the best in world, fingers crossed the judge will throw this case out of court before Forni can say ‘cheese‘ to any press photographer.
Keep checking back for updates on this frivolous lawsuit.