Click here for high speed internet access from Cellularvision, available in your neighborhood NOW!
September 27, 1997

Mother Fights Celebrity Nudes Online

Search the Web for almost any Hollywood star, and you'll get more smutty hits than you could double-click in a year.


Alyssa Milano

Web sites routinely use - without authorization - celebrity names, images or likenesses to attract attention. Never mind that such uses are illegal. These sites unabashedly post nude images of celebrities or use celebrity names in pornographic keyword text, hoping to snare customers with the bait of a famous name. It's also easy to find calendars, picture packs, CD-ROMs, and other products for sale featuring nude celebrity images.

At least one celebrity family is fighting back. Lin Milano, mother and manager of the actress Alyssa Milano, resolved to battle this issue three years ago, after her 12-year-old son searched the Web for his sister -- and to his shock (and the rest of the family's) encountered Alyssa in the buff.

Hence the birth of Lin Milano's Cyber-Trackers. Milano began by canvassing the Web in search of Alyssa -- and was astonished to find sites -- and the metatags the sites were using to manipulate search engines -- to profit off of Alyssa's celebrity in a sexual setting.

Today in CyberTimes


Mother Fights Celebrity Nudes Online
By Michael Baroni

Apple Changes Way It Sells Computers
By The Associated Press

IRS Bashing: Death, Taxes, Space Aliens and Brownies
By Lisa Napoli

U.S. Supercomputer Maker Wins Case Against Japanese Rivals
By The Associated Press

Microsoft Defends Blocking Surfers From Expedia Travel Site
By Jane Levere

CyberTimes Forum
The Encryption Debate: Is It About Privacy or Security?





The most prevalent pics of Alyssa, best known for her role as Tony Danza's daughter in "Who's The Boss" and now co-starring in "Melrose Place," are those scanned from her topless scenes in the film "Embrace of the Vampire." Far worse, Milano says, are the sites that digitally combine pictures of Alyssa as a young child with bodies of naked girls, often in hard-core pornographic depictions.

"Pedophiles scare me," Milano said. "This kind of thing promotes stalking, because if a pedophile goes on the Net and sees Alyssa Milano as a nude child -- her face put on a nude child -- he thinks she's posed for this. And he starts e-mailing her and stalking her."

Cyber-Trackers is now the hired gun for three other major celebrities (who prefer anonymity). Milano checks the search engines every day for Alyssa's and her other clients' names, images and likenesses. She catalogs her findings, uses private investigators to track down the perpetrators (if necessary), and e-mails cease-and-desist warnings. Most sites promptly remove the offending material.

Mitchell Kamarck, an Internet specialist and partner at the law firm of Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman in Beverly Hills, serves as the outside counsel to Cyber-Trackers. Kamarck pursues Cyber-Trackers' cases under claims of copyright infringement and publicity violation (for unauthorized use of photos), and trademark infringement and false endorsement (for unauthorized use of names).

Opponents quickly fold when Kamarck gears up for battle; they know Cyber-Trackers has the resources to fight in the legal arena -- and to win. To date, Kamarck estimates that Cyber-Trackers has removed several thousand offending meta tags.

Milano is adamant in her mission.

"If they resurface elsewhere, don't respond, or if they get back to me with lewd language, I simply send it to my attorney," she said, adding that she tells violators, "I have the money and I will sue you."

Like the topless movie images of Alyssa, most celebrities' nude images are real-life scans, many of them lifted from films or from magazines like Playboy and Penthouse. Pamela Anderson Lee and Vanessa Williams are among the most targeted, but many female celebrities seem to have done some sort of nudity in their careers. In the past, actors could do one-time nudity and move on; they didn't anticipate technology that would allow those images to be broadcast freely for the rest of time.

A recent case involving Brad Pitt illustrates the power of Internet technology. When photos were covertly snapped of Pitt in full nudity and published in Playgirl magazine, the pictures seemed to zip simultaneously across the Internet at warp speed. Pitt obtained an injunction to bar Playgirl from further distribution of the photos, but no court can single-handedly stop the Web and its millions of individual users around the globe.

What fuels this quest for celebrity nudes? In part, of course, simple fascination in unraveling the mystery of a star. But it can also be about cash. Milano said she found one student at a top university who was selling "autographed" nudes of Alyssa.

Milano says she also hopes to educate other celebrities on the importance of the Internet as a form of publicity and as a way of connecting to their fans. She and Alyssa put up, which Milano describes as "a cozy place that's not very glitzy, that her fans could stop by, drop her an e-mail, and get updates." "The fans now have a place to go," she said. "They have Alyssa's House."

Milano added that she did not "want to be Big Brother" or chill First Amendment freedoms. Cyber-Trackers does not, for instance, go after fans who merely post pictures and information on Alyssa. Cyber-Trackers' primary mission, she said, is "to make people realize they can't capitalize on a celebrity's image without authorization."

Related Sites
Following are links to the external Web sites mentioned in this article. These sites are not part of The New York Times on the Web, and The Times has no control over their content or availability. When you have finished visiting any of these sites, you will be able to return to this page by clicking on your Web browser's "Back" button or icon until this page reappears.

Click here for high speed internet access from Cellularvision, available in your neighborhood NOW!
Home | Sections | Contents | Search | Forums | Help

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company