Oh, the halcyon days of Winter, 2014-2015. Back when we could luxuriate in the hilarity of erotic fiction starring an NFL player without worrying about who the hell those two people were on the cover and why they were there.
Well those days are long gone. The couple on the cover of "A Gronking to Remember" have sued the e-book's author, Lacey Noonan, as well as Apple, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, claiming the Noonan used their engagement photo without permission, holding them up to "ridicule and embarrassment."
What everyone assumed was a stock photograph has now come to life in litigation, and our Gronking will never be the same.
Never Judge a Book ...
Now we must all confront the harsh reality of unwittingly being featured on the cover of a "less than tasteful and ... offensive" book, a book that was the "source of ribald humor on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live as well as displayed and read before the press at media day for the Super Bowl."
Once we were free to breeze right by the book's nonsensical pairing of a smiling and celebratory Rob Gronkowski with an anonymous, hugging couple, on our way to the steamy interior of football fantasy.
Now we face John and Jane Roe, the anonymous couple asking for $25,000 in compensatory damages because Noonan and the named e-tailers invaded a privacy that might be still intact. (Judging from current product postings on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, the Roe's wish that the cover photo be replaced has already been granted.)
A Provocative Invasion of Privacy
The Roes have a standard invasion of privacy claim, both for the appropriation of their likeness and for portraying the couple in a false light. They are also claiming the use of the photo violates Ohio's right of publicity law, which bars use of "any aspect of an individual's persona for a commercial purpose" without the person's permission.
The eBook sellers will likely claim protection under the Communications Decency Act, which protects intermediaries like ISPs, publishers, and web hosting companies from responsibility for the tortious acts of their users. Noonan, meanwhile, might have to explain exactly how she got the photo and why she used it.
The rest of us will have to live the rest of our Gronking lives knowing the Roes are out there, somewhere, possibly still living with the ridicule and embarrassment of being associated with the best tight end in the game.