You may have seen the accompanying photo of a young woman, either to promote a background check business or as part of a “sexy mugshot” meme online. It turns out that it’s an actual mugshot, and the woman who’s pictured is suing the company who helped make her a household face.
Her name is Meagan Simmons, and she lives in Florida. The photo was taken after she was arrested on a DUI charge in 2010. InstantCheckmate.com used it to advertise its services, with the tag line, “Sometimes, the cute ones aren’t so innocent.”
From there, her photo circulated further online, with other tag lines. “Guilty of taking my breath away,” “This is what a model inmate looks like” and “Arrested for breaking and entering your heart” were a few cited by the Tampa Bay Times. For a while, Simmons apparently didn’t mind the attention, tweeting her excitement when the mug appeared on an “Inside Edition” report.
She did tell The Daily Mail last year that she wasn’t thrilled with the likeness: “I don’t think it’s that good a picture. There are other ones I would prefer.”
But that’s not why she is suing InstantCheckmate.
Her attorney, Matthew Crist, told the Times: “At the end of the day, this is actually about intellectual property. If someone is going to use your image, they need to pay you for it.”
Which InstantCheckmate hasn’t done, the suit says. In fact, the company didn’t ask permission.
“The legal issue is it’s your face, and your name. You own it,” Crist said. “You can use it, you control it and when someone misappropriates it that’s when you’re violating Florida law.”