A federal court judge ruled last week that MaryAnn Sahoury's lawsuit against the Meredith Corp. could proceed. In January 2010, Sahoury agreed to demonstrate breast-feeding techniques with her month-old daughter in a video for Parents TV, which broadcasts original videos on parenting. Sahoury, who had had trouble breast-feeding, wanted to help women who faced similar difficulties, she said.
"I didn't get paid to do this. I didn't want to be some sort of celebrity," Sahoury, 35, told The Associated Press. "I did this to help other moms."
Sahoury claims she was told by a producer that only first names would be used in the video. When filming was over, Sahoury was asked to sign a piece of paper; she was juggling her daughter and signed it without reading.
Months later, Sahoury Googled herself. She was shocked by the results: numerous links to pornographic sites and videos containing her name. She clicked on one and saw the breast-feeding video spliced with a woman of "similar features and stature" performing sex acts, according to the lawsuit. Sahoury then Googled her infant daughter's name, which also returned links to pornographic sites and videos.
"It was terrifying," Sahoury said. "It was like I can't even control my life and it was spiraling out of control."
Sahoury's full name was used in the video, the lawsuit states, yielding the Google results. The lawsuit also claims the video was placed on YouTube, when Sahoury was told it would appear only on Parents TV and cable television. Her lawsuit is seeking an order prohibiting the defendants from using the video featuring her and her daughter for any purpose; it also seeks attorney fees.
Meredith said the paper Sahoury signed was a release authorizing the company to use her "image, voice and name," according to her suit.
The lawsuit states the Des Moines, Iowa-based company initially worked to help find the person believed to be responsible for the video and remove it from the Internet, but the help waned. Sahoury said videos kept popping up even after they were taken down.
In a statement, Meredith said it is "appalled" that the video was misused and it hired lawyers to file take-down demands and Internet specialists to clear online caches and continues the "good-faith efforts."
"We have taken these actions even though Ms. Sahoury signed a full release for herself and her daughter," the statement said.
Sahoury said she hopes the lawsuit leads to greater Internet protections.
"I never want this to happen again," she said.
Associated Press Researcher Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this report.