Ill. GOP hit with lawsuit over use of altered photo in campaign flier

By Bethany Krajelis | Jan 5, 2015

A photograph used in a campaign mailer in a suburban legislative race is now an exhibit in a lawsuit that was lodged late last month against the Illinois Republican Party, a prosecutor and others.

Jacob Meister, a Chicago lawyer and one-time candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Lake County photographer Quenton Galvin filed their suit Dec. 31 in federal court, alleging copyright infringement, false light, defamation and conspiracy.

At the crux of the 26-count complaint is a photo Galvin took of Meister in August, when he was driving a car --that had posters on it, showing support for Rep. Sam Yingling's reelection bid-- in a parade in Grayslake.

The photo was later posted on the campaign website of Yingling, a Democrat who has represented the 62nd District since January 2013. Yingling was elected to another term in November after beating his Republican challenger, Roderick Drobinski, a prosecutor with the Lake County Assistant State's Attorney's Office.

Before the General Election, however, the suit alleges Galvin's photo of Meister was altered and used in a mailer the Republican Party paid for in support of Drobinski's campaign.

The mailer contained an electronically altered version of the photo Galvin took of Meister at the parade on each side. It was altered to make it look like Meister "was making off with a carload of stolen money from the Illinois State Capitol, clearly implying that he was somehow engaged in theft of public funds," according to the complaint.

Galvin, as the owner of the photo, says he gave permission for the photo at issue to be published on Yingling's campaign website, but did not give the state GOP the OK to use and alter it.

He asserts the U.S. Copyright Office issued him a certificate of registration for the photo on Oct. 7, less than 90 days after it was posted on Yingling's website, and that the copyright is retroactive to the date the photo was taken.

As such, Galvin contends the use of his photo on Drobinski's flier constitutes a willful infringement on his copyright. The suit alleges several thousand of these mailers were sent out.

In fact, it appears from an exhibit attached to the complaint, that one was sent to the address state election records show belongs to Yingling. It was addressed to the "Jaffe household," likely in reference to the lawmaker's partner, Lowell Jaffee.

And because he never gave permission for his image to be used in the flier, Meister claims in the suit the altered photo not only wrongly appropriated his image, but put him in a false light and made a defamatory statement given how it depicted him.

The duo's lawsuit names the following as defendants: the Illinois Republican Party, the Illinois House Republican Organization, Roderick Drobinski, Friends of Drobinski, New Jersey-based GOP political consulting firm Jamestown Associates and direct mail firm Majority Strategies Inc.

Galvin and Meister are seeking more than $150,000in compensatory damages and punitive damages of at least $500,000, as well as attorney's fees and costs. They are being represented by David A. Axelrod and Jason M. Kleinman of David A. Axelrod & Associates PC in Chicago.

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