Court Lets Amazon, B&N Off the Hook in Erotic E-Book Case

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

March 16 — Three online booksellers aren't liable for personality rights and other claims made by a couple distressed that an erotic e-book cover featured their engagement photo without permission, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled March 15.

The court granted judgment in favor of Inc., Barnes & Noble Inc. and Smashwords Inc. after finding that as booksellers, they did not count as publishers for the purposes of the claims. The book was offered for sale on the e-bookstores.

The court, however, let stand the claims against the author of an erotic fan-fiction series featuring Rob Gronkowski, a player for the New England Patriots football team.

The anonymous plaintiffs objected to the unauthorized use of their photograph for the book cover.

According to the complaint, the book cover was shown on “The Tonight Show” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and was “displayed and read before the press at media day for the Super Bowl.”

Asserting that this use “has held them up to ridicule and embarrassment,” the plaintiffs' claims included violation of their right of publicity under Ohio state law and invasion of privacy.

The court's ruling was issued by Judge Thomas M. Rose.

The plaintiffs were represented by the Beitzel Law Office, Troy, Ohio. Amazon was represented by Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP, Columbus, Ohio and Farella Braun & Martel LLP, San Francisco. Barnes & Noble and Smashwords were represented by Squire Sanders (US) LLP, Columbus. Stris & Maher, Los Angeles, also represented Smashwords. The author was represented by Isaac Wiles Burkholder & Teetor LLC, Columbus.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek in Washington at

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