Fundraising: Failure to Distribute Funds and Continued Use of a Persons's Image


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Using the likeness of another person usually requires permission and monetary disbursement to the individual affected as long as the likeness is on display. However, when an organization or entity uses the image or likeness of a person without permission or payment, the individual or family may need to contact a lawyer to determine the best course of action going forward.

Misappropriation of a personís likeness is not an option for any entity or organization unless consent of the target occurs before the likeness or image becomes public. Often a group or nonprofit entity may use the likeness or image of a person such as a child to attract wealthy benefactors. In order to receive donations to keep the organization afloat, these images or media may become public or a representation of the wholesomeness of the entity. Fundraiser entities could use the image to show the public that the organization is a worthy cause for donations and to remain in the spotlight of the media.

Commitment to Ethical Practices

Without the consent or payment of a person for his or her image, a fundraiser organization may not remain in ethical bounds. This could lead to severe negative consequences to the owner or founder of the entity. Distribution of payment for the use of a likeness or image of a child to the family is imperative. Without providing these funds for an agreement prearranged for the use of such images, the family may pursue legal action against the entity. Then, the organization may face devastating results. Even if the family loses such a claim, the entity could unravel for possible unethical behavior.

In keeping in line with ethical practices, the organization needs to ensure that communications remain open and accurate. If the fundraiser is not able to distribute funds due to income issues, this needs clear explanation to the family affected. Sometimes donations take more time to receive through charitable benefactors than expected. During these times, it is critical to remain honest with the child or family so that no further action pursued by the family causes issues. Talking with the person whose image used for various reasons is necessary, and this could clear up any confusion quickly.

The Use of the Image

Another contention for family members when a childís image is part of a campaign or advertising with a fundraising organization is that it will lead to a negative impact. Using the image for negative reasons or causing a negative light to shine on the family could lead to a defamation case. Permission is necessary before the photo or likeness becomes part of the public display. Even though finding the website or other details about the organization may remain easy, using the image needs to ensure that the family does not face scrutiny or negative feedback by the public. Sometimes, this may necessitate the protection of the identity of the child or family involved in these situations.

Pursuing Legal Action

It is best to consult with a lawyer first, but through his or her direction, the individual or family affected may progress to a lawsuit. If the fundraising organization does not attempt to resolve the matter before the lawsuit, the lead or creator of the entity may try to do so after contacted by a lawyer. To remove the lengthy process of the courts and costs of this method, settlements are often the best form of resolution to these matters. This may provide the compensation the family is seeking for the use of a childís image and end the conflict without proceeding to the courtroom under a judge or jury.

If no resolution is possible through negotiation or a settlement, the family may need to initiate the litigation process for a final judgment on the matter. This requires evidence, and it is often beneficial to have witnesses to explain the matter before the courts. If a contract or written agreement exists, this is necessary in the case to show that the fundraising organization did enter into a contractual obligation to provide payment for the use of the childís image.

Legal Help in Use of a Childís Image

To initiate litigation, most states require the use of a lawyer. Additionally, this legal representative may attempt to resolve the matter before it goes to court. By communicating with the fundraising organization, it is possible for a settlement to occur. If not, the lawyer may assist in concluding a lawsuit in court.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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