Teen Model Sues Urban Outfitters over Risqué T-shirt

By Maria Cheung

Reviewed by Jennifer Williams

Sixteen-year-old model Hailey Clauson and her parents are suing Urban Outfitters (“Urban”) for using Clauson’s image without her permission. Clauson wants $28 million for damages to her and her family’s reputation. The model has accused the chain of selling a t-shirt with a “blatantly salacious” picture of her on it. Clauson describes the picture as “the object of prurient interests and provides wallpaper for the likes of pedophiles.” The lawsuit goes on to state “[Clauson] is posed in a blatantly salacious manner with her legs spread, without a bra, revealing portions of her breasts…The image of [Clauson] in a spread eagle position making her crotch area the focal point of the image may portray a child in a sexually suggestive manner and may be in violation of one or more federal and/or state laws.”

The picture was reportedly taken by photographer Jason Lee Parry when Clauson was 15 for the German fashion magazine Qvest. Parry allegedly (without Clauson’s permission) then sold the images to Blood is the New Black, a clothing line, which printed the images on t-shirts marketed for males and sold the t-shirts to Urban. According to Entertainment Weekly, Clauson claims Parry “agreed never to release [the images] after Clauson’s then-agent from Ford Models complained.”

In addition to t-shirts at Urban, Clauson’s picture, as well as another shot of her taken by Parry, has been found on shirts at New York and Los Angeles boutiques Brandy & Melville and Blood Is The New Black, respectively. Parry and these boutiques are also targeted in Clauson’s suit. Parry told the The New York Post that Clauson’s parents were present at the 2010 photo shoot when the picture was taken and that “the images got [stolen] from me.”  Urban did not have a comment as of press time regarding the suit.

One might wonder if Clauson did not want her picture to appear in other places (or on clothing), then why did she (with her parents’ approval) pose for the shoot in the first place? This is a valid question but anyone in the modeling and fashion industry knows that there is a profound difference between those images appearing in a fairly obscure high fashion/art magazine, where they are surrounded by similar editorials, and those images being printed on t-shirts that random guys could wear on their chests.

Additionally, if Clauson’s claims are true, Parry may be simply trying to capitalize on the young model’s newfound fame. Clauson has recently walked in fashion shows by Zac Posen, DKNY and Oscar de la Renta. In doing so, she gained national attention because Clauson walked in these shows at 15 and the general rule is that these models in the shows need to be 16. Parry’s ownership of the shots only extended to their use in Qvest magazine. He never had Clauson or her parents sign a release for them to be used in any other capacity. This, according to intellectual property law, means only Clauson owns her image. Without her permission to use the images, Parry, Blood is the New Black, Brandy & Melville and Urban are not entitled to make any money off of her pictures.

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