Volvo faces lawsuit over photos used in ad campaign

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Automotive photographer Jack Schroeder and model Britni Sumida filed a lawsuit against Volvo, alleging that the automaker used Schroeder’s photos featuring Sumida and a Volvo S60 without authorization.

The 20-page lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles, contends Volvo Group North America LLC took 11 photos from Schroeder’s Instagram page and website without permission and used them in its own Instagram stories and Pinterest page.

The photos included links directing customers to a website page dedicated to the S60, the suit alleges.

Six months prior, Volvo had commented on Schroeder’s Instagram post asking to license the photos with no compensation, according to the lawsuit. Schroeder emailed Volvo a week later offering to “negotiate a license” and included a link to his website but received no response, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that Volvo did not take down all of the photos from its social media pages after Schroeder emailed asking the automaker to do so. Volvo denied that its use of the photos was wrong after the company was sent a cease-and-desist letter, the suit said.

In a statement emailed to Automotive News, Russell Datz, national media relations manager at Volvo, said: “Volvo Car USA is aware of the complaint and will vigorously defend the lawsuit.”

Jeff Gluck, a lawyer representing Schroeder and Sumida, said in an email to Automotive News that the plaintiffs “seek to enforce their rights and protect their livelihoods.”

“They will not cower to corporate bullying or cheap intimidation tactics,” he said.

In addition, the suit alleges that Porch House Pictures, a production company Schroeder has worked with, took and posted on Instagram a 20-second video of Schroeder and Sumida’s photo shoot. Volvo sent “an aggressive and intimidating letter” threatening to sue the company for posting a video displaying Volvo’s logo, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit further contends that Volvo’s use of the photos damaged Sumida’s ability to do work for another automaker. She also has done modeling work for Timex, Hurley and Chase bank.

“Volvo’s unauthorized commercial exploitation of the photos is particularly damaging because Ms. Sumida had been hired to star in an ad campaign for a different major car company, and her contract contained a provision preventing her from working for other auto manufacturers,” the suit said.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages including fees incurred from pursuing the lawsuit. The suit also demands Volvo immediately remove all physical and digital copies of Schroeder’s photos and pay the defendants any proceeds made from the usage. The lawsuit further seeks implementation of measures that will prevent Volvo from engaging in “wrongful conduct.”

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Saurabh Shukla

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