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Celebrities Lose Lawsuit Against Plastic Surgery Clinic

BY Joan MacDonald | Jan 10, 2014 10:52 AM EST

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Last year several lawsuits were filed against plastic surgery clinics for the unauthorized use of celebrity photographs. A few court rulings were handed down with mixed results.

In January of 2013, 38 celebrities, including k-drama actors Jang Dong Gun, Song Hye Kyo and Kim Nam Gil, as well a k-pop groups including Wonder Girls, 2PM, Girls Generation, Super Junior and TVXQ, filed for damages against a Gangnam clinic in Seoul. The celebrities said that the clinic knowingly used their photographs to advertise their services.

This week the Seoul Central District Court ruled against the celebrities saying there was not enough evidence to determine that the clinic knowingly set out to profit from their photographs.

According to the Seoul District Court, while actors should be paid for the use of their image, there are currently no legal regulations in place that clearly define this kind of situation. Evidence must establish the intent to profit from their pictures.

"Even if the court acknowledges their rights of publicity, considering the photos were posted in the plastic surgery clinic's promotional and separate categories, it is difficult to prove they earned a profit from it," said the court ruling. "We can't see it as a violation of the plaintiffs' right of publicity."

Not only do the celebrities object to businesses using their photographs without permission and without paying them, many find that such an association will start rumors that they have had plastic surgery.

In July, singer Baek Ji Young was awarded partial damages on a similar case, in which a plastic surgeon used her photo to advertise his services.  The surgeon was ordered to pay her $3,600 for her right of publicity. From 2010 to 2012, he used four of her bikini photos to advertise his liposuction services without her consent. She originally asked for ten times as much in damages.

Baek Ji Young and Nam Gyu Ri also partially won a lawsuit against a hospital for using their photos. In this case, the surgeon, who used the pictures on his blog had to pay each celebrity $4,300. The judge in that case determined that although the photos were used on a doctor's blog, the blog did feature prominent advertising for the surgeon's services.

The difference between those cases and the recently ruled on case was that the surgeon and the clinic he worked for were not responsible for posting the photos.

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