Family of dead Irish woman say her photo was used in “graphic” horror film

Courts News Ireland
Family of dead Irish woman say her photo was used in “graphic” horror film

The family of an Irish woman tragically found dead after going missing have launched a High Court action after her image has been used in a Hollywood horror film without their consent.

The action related to the use of an image of the late Stacia Purcell, 66, from New Ross in Wexford, who went missing on 30 October last year. Following a widescale search involving the Gardai, her body was discovered some days later in the River Barrow. It is thought she fell into the river after suffering a heart attack.

Yesterday the High Court heard a picture of Stacia, which was provided by her family and issued to the press to assist in the search, features in a horror film called Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan heard that the image was used without the family’s consent or permission and has caused them great pain, distress, and suffering. Their upset has been added to as they found out about the image’s use in the film in the week leading up to the first anniversary of her tragic loss.

Temporary injunction ruled out

In proceedings against 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, WT6 Productions and UFO Film and Television Studios Ltd (Bulgaria) and UFO International Productions (Los Angeles) Ms Purcell’s children Anna Kehoe, Patrick Purcell, Catherine Doran and son-in-law Sean Doran seek a number of orders preventing the use of her image in the film.

These orders include an interim injunction, on an ex parte basis, preventing the use of her image in the film in any further broadcasts or distribution of the film. The family say the film is owned controlled, broadcast and distributed by the defendants.

Mr Justice Gilligan, who accepted that matter is serious, said he was not prepared to grant the family an temporary injunction preventing the distribution, sale or broadcast of the film in its current format when only one side was represented in court.

To do so at this stage, the judge said, would be “far reaching” and “draconian,” given that any order made by the court “would have a worldwide effect.”

“A beloved mother and grandmother”

The judge said at this stage he was prepared to grant the family permission to serve short service of proceedings against the respondents. Noting there had been correspondence between lawyers for the parties, the judge said he wished to put the matter back to next Wednesday.

This was to allow lawyers for the respondents file an affidavit in response to the action.

The late Mrs Purcell’s family represented by Richard Kean SC, appearing with Willie Ryan BL, say in recent weeks the Purcell family were contacted by neighbours who informed them the late woman’s image featured in the movie. The film has been broadcast on Sky Television, and is also available on buy on DVD, counsel said.

The image appears some 22 minutes into the film. Counsel said that Stacia Purcell’s image is cast and shown to be a missing 81 year old man in the film.

Counsel said there can be no dispute that the image used is that of the late woman, who counsel said was “a beloved mother and grandmother.”

‘Breach of privacy’

No consent was given by the family for the image to be used, counsel said, and its use is a breach of copyright. Lawyers also said that the photograph has been used in a “grotesque, graphically violent film, which contains scenes of a pornographic nature.”

The use of the image, taken from a family photograph, in a film containing a lot of violence and sex has caused the family much distress, and has breached their privacy, counsel added.

Counsel said what was also upsetting for the family is that people might think they had sold the right to use her image to the film makers. Counsel said efforts were made by the family’s solicitor Phelim O’Neill to resolve the issue, but those efforts had not been successful.

The Wrong Turn franchise of horror films has been running for more than a decade and follows various families of deformed cannibals who hunt and kill people in the rural United States for food.

The court heard that the franchise has grossed more than $40 million dollars at the box office.

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