- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

SALEM, Va. (AP) — A suggestive birthday card featuring a photo of a poultry farmer holding a goose has really ruffled the farmer’s feathers and prompted him to file a $7.5 million lawsuit against the photographers and companies who used his image.

Andrew Marsinko said he never signed a release allowing his photo to be used for commercial purposes, as required by Virginia law. Now he is suing for a variety of reasons, including defamation and reckless infliction of emotional distress.

The front of the card features Mr. Marsinko on one knee holding a goose — under the words, “Since it’s your birthday, you decide — Would you rather get spanked…” and then, inside: “Or goosed? Happy birthday!”

The Botetourt County farmer said he didn’t even know about the card until he attended an animal auction in Mount Hope, Ohio, where people began teasing him. According to the lawsuit, one person asked him, “When did you give up women to hug a goose?”

The portrait was taken at the 1996 State Fair of Virginia by D.C.-based photographer John Burwell, who had been hired to take promotional photos.

The card was sold throughout the United States and Canada last year. During that time, Mr. Marsinko — a member of the American Poultry Association’s Exhibitor’s Hall of Fame — said he was the object of ridicule at auctions and livestock shows across the country. According to the complaint, one person told him, “Good picture of the goose. Can’t say much for you.”

The complaint, filed in Roanoke County Circuit Court, accuses Mr. Burwell and his wife of selling Mr. Marsinko’s image to Jupitermedia Corp., a stock image provider, without his permission. The image was used on a card sold by Boulder, Colo., company Leanin’ Tree Inc., according to the complaint.

Mr. Marsinko said he contacted Leanin’ Tree, which contacted Getty Images Inc., which had purchased the rights to the image from Jupitermedia. Getty Images said Mr. Marsinko signed a release authorizing the image’s use. But in his complaint, Mr. Marsinko says he did no such thing.

Mr. Marsinko’s complaint accuses the Burwells, Jupitermedia, Getty Images and Leanin’ Tree of defamation, unauthorized use of a picture, conspiracy and attempted conspiracy and reckless infliction of emotional distress.

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