“The Cloud” is not the only source for nude pics of famous actresses peddled to the public — and shady websites are not the only places where people share faked photos of celebs and public figures engaged in shocking sexual shenanigans.
Ebay, the world’s largest online marketplace, also sells unauthorized nudes and phony, Photoshopped® porn involving celebrities and public figures in its “adult section,” according to Ronald L. Smith, an Upper East Side author. Smith is crusading to get the website to ban all “celebrity nude” and “nude celebrity fantasy” listings unless sellers can produce a signed model release and proof that they are licensed to sell such images.
Ebay is “abusing copyright to a tremendous degree,” and degrading the image of many famous and beloved women in the stills, DVDs and VHS tapes peddled there, Smith said.
Smith, the author of 18 books, including “Sweethearts of ’60s TV,” regularly patrols the adult section of Ebay, where, he said, he has found images (some real and some fake) of Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Halle Berry, Shirley Jones, Kelly Ripa, Dakota Fanning, Marlo Thomas, Barbara Feldon, Nichelle Nichols, the previously stalked sportscaster Erin Andrews and even Audrey Hepburn.
As the recent hacking scandal unfolded, 35 unauthorized images of Jennifer Lawrence emerged in Ebay’s adult section, Smith said.
Many public figures don’t realize they are being exploited in this way and don’t have people employed on their behalf policing the site for fake or unauthorized depictions of themselves, Smith added.
“This stuff is pure, pure hostility — bestiality and bondage pictures,” Smith said. While some images go for as little as $1.99, some sell for up to $75, he noted.
While the site allows users to report listings and removes them when authorized representatives complain, Smith said, sellers often return. “The guy selling nude pictures of Shirley Jones — I got him kicked off Ebay,” but he and other sellers simply relist their wares under new user names — one reason a presumptive ban is needed, Smith said.
Such pictures are “a minor nuisance — it’s bad when the pictures are bad,” said Julie Newmar (aka the original Catwoman on the “Batman” show).
Newmar, 81, is among the actresses that Smith works for, gratis, patrolling for and reporting unauthorized images. (Dawn Wells, Carroll Baker, Lizabeth Scott, Shirley Jones and the estate of Elizabeth Montgomery are others.)
Newmar lauds Smith as a “warrior” and an adorable “Sir Galahad,” devoted to defending the honor of women he reveres. Still, Newmar is less than apoplectic that there is an underground market of fake porn incorporating her famous face. She evinced pity for people so desperate for money they resort to creating pornography in “home-based jobs.”
But Nichelle Nichols — Lt. Uhura on the old “Star Trek” series — is furious that her image is hawked without her permission. Ebay, she said, “should not be allowed to post [the auctions and sales] and there should be a law against it,” the 81-year-old star said. “It misrepresents me.”
Ebay did not respond to emailed requests for comment. The company requires users of its “adult only” section to sign in and supply a credit card number to access the section, and states on the site that it does not take “a moral stand on the items that are listed (we act only as a listing agent).”
However noble Smith’s quest might be, it’s unlikely it will triumph, given the protections afforded Ebay and others under free speech and the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, said Barry Chase, senior partner at Chase Lawyers, which protects the intellectual property rights of entertainment figures and sports stars.
While a lawsuit against Ebay by a deep-pocketed celebrity for “contributory violations of their rights of personality” might possibly prevail to presumptively ban unauthorized images from the site, “it’s not financially productive” for most stars to go after small vendors selling altered or unlicensed images, Chase said. But most stars are loathe to sue or even speak out because doing so “creates a new story: Everyone knows and now they’ll find it. You cause a propagation of the damage,” Chase explained.
Newmar is similarly fatalistic: “A lot of this is uncontrollable. Thank God we are adored” enough to inspire sexual fantasies, she added.
The question could be asked why, when technology exists for almost anyone to create their own cut-and-paste porn, there is any market for such stuff at all.
“A lot of people don’t know how to use Photoshop — or they’re just inept,” said Smith. As for celebs feeling flattered, he assured, “there is nothing flattering about it: You have the right to control your privacy and intellectual property.”
In the Internet age, though, that is becoming increasingly difficult, Chase noted. Celebrities and everyone else, Chase suggested, should “get used to the idea that the old rules of privacy and civility just don’t apply anymore.”