Litigation heats up over Station Casinos ‘hot dog girl’ photo

Click to enlarge photo

Screenshot from Station Casinos website.

Neither side is backing down in a dispute over ownership of the"hot dog girl" photo used to promote the sports books of Station Casinos in the Las Vegas area.

Station filed suit in October against Florida photographer Fred Holt, also known as Fred Love, over the photo. In the lawsuit, Station asked the federal court in Las Vegas to decide ownership of the image.

The casino-resort company claims to own the photo, contending it was produced by Love in 2009 on a contract basis with the understanding the copyright would be owned by Station.

Love holds the federal copyright registration to the photo and says he didn’t assign the copyright to Station.

Love says he had sold the photo to an advertising company for one-time use on flyers promoting Station’s Red Rock Resort — not for a large-scale companywide advertising campaign.

The photo shows a blonde woman — model Mindi Smith — in shorts and a low-cut shirt holding a ketchup bottle and a hot dog. Station uses the photo to illustrate promotions for low-priced hot dogs and beer available at Station properties on football game days.

After Love was sued in Las Vegas, an attorney representing him fired back, hitting Station with a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement in Florida.

The Nov. 8 lawsuit in federal court in Miami asks that Station be found to have committed willful copyright infringement, that Station be enjoined from further use of the photo, that all versions of the photo be destroyed, including versions on signs and billboards, and that Station account for and then pay Love its profits related to use of the photo.

Attorneys for Station responded to the Florida lawsuit this week, asking that the action be dismissed or at least be transferred to Nevada.

Station Casinos LLC, the company that emerged from the Station Casinos Inc. bankruptcy, argued in its motion that Love’s claims are restricted by the old Station Casinos' bankruptcy reorganization plan.

"Holt waited two years to make his claim, even though he was on notice since the time of the photo shoot that Station Casinos planned to use the work in connection with an advertising campaign," said Station’s response, filed this week by attorneys at the Las Vegas office of the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP.

"While Holt (aka Love) was sitting on his hands, Station Casinos underwent restructuring in bankruptcy and, by court order, all actual and potential claims against it (including unfiled claims like Holt’s) were extinguished," the response says.

Station and its attorneys also contend that most of the evidence and witnesses related to the case are in the Las Vegas area and in Orange County, Calif., where the photo was taken — meaning it makes sense to litigate the issue in Nevada rather than Florida, where Love lives.

It’s unknown when the Florida judge handling the suit will rule on the motions for dismissal and changing the venue to Nevada.

The judge handling the Nevada lawsuit filed by Station hasn’t issued any rulings so far on that case.



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Discussion 3 comments

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  1. Nice. A good old-fashioned "work for hire" dispute with a dash of BK law thrown in for spice. :)

  2. The photographer should always maintain ultimate rights over their photo that they took with their camera...

    And if the company used an image from a place like shutterstock without purchasing the proper license, they are going to be sued and found guilty.

    They either have the authorization to use it or they don't. From this article it does not appear they had authorization to use the photographers image as they did.

    The photo is lame by the way. And in no way makes me want to buy a hot dog or go to a Casino...

    The sex sells advertisements are so old and corny, I'm surprised people still resort to being perverts to sell their products...

    A big thanks for clogging up our courts with more copyright nonsense by the way...

  3. Serf, I would tend to agree with you overall, but the original story regarding this presented a view that made it appear more like Stations might have ownership. The devil, as always, will be in the details of the contract(s).

    If this was indeed a work for hire then I would be surprised if rights reside with the photographer.