Chipotle’s getting sued for $2 billion – yes $2 billion – over a marketing move

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

As soon as you’re done reading this piece, please go and check your website, your social media sites, your brochures and your marketing literature. Are there images of people in these materials? Where did you get these images? Are you sure – absolutely sure – that you have the rights to these images?

If not, you could be sued. For $2.2 billion! Billion!

Yes, that does seem like quite a large amount. But Leah Caldwell, the woman filing the lawsuit is serious. As reported by Fortune, she’s accusing the fast food chain Chipotle of using her likeness for marketing purposes without her permission. She’s not happy.

Nine years ago, according to Caldwell, a photographer snapped photos inside of a Chipotle restaurant near Denver that included her. When asked to sign a release she claims she pointedly refused. She told Fortune she was “floored” when she saw pictures of herself hanging at an Orlando restaurant in 2014 and then in other California locations. The photos were touched up to make her hair look better, but also “put a false light upon her character associated with consuming alcoholic beverages,” the lawsuit claims.

Why $2.2 billion? That equals the company’s entire profits from 2006 to 2015 of course – money that Caldwell believes she’s fully entitled to. Sounds a little extreme – but the point is made.

In these days of lost privacy and waning confidentiality, there are some who will get pretty mad if a company uses their image or information without the proper permission.


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