According to a court complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Shannon Stovall, a resident of Ohio's Cuyahoga County, discovered upon signing up for Yahoo's Web-based e-mail service last October that a picture taken of her appeared in a note sent to new users.
The message, according to a printout attached to the court complaint, leads off with the headline "Hooray! Your first e-mail" and a photograph containing two women, one of which is purported to be Stovall. It goes on to give Yahoo Mail users tips on how to transfer address book contacts and customize the look of their messages.
The complaint charges that the image has been sent to millions of users around the world without Stovall's authorization, violating her right to privacy and right to publicity--that is, to control the commercial use of her identity.
Mitchell Yelsky, one of three attorneys handling Stovall's case, said his client "has previously modeled and worked for modeling agencies." According to documents provided to CNET News.com, Yelsky sent two letters to Yahoo in November asking that the company cease using her image in the message.
A Yahoo representative said Friday that the company is not allowed to comment on "specifics related to legal cases."
The complaint requests a jury trial, $10 million to compensate for profits that have been allegedly generated by use of her likeness, and $10 million to cover attorneys' fees and litigation expenses.
The allegations resemble lodged by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady against Yahoo in December. The star athlete accused the portal of using a photograph of him from the September 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated without his permission to promote its fantasy football league.
Stovall's case was first reported Thursday by eWeek.