A woman's case against Google loses on appeal.
An Elkhorn woman who's spent years suing Internet companies alleging they have misappropriated her name to salacious ends has lost the latest bout in her struggle to safeguard what she describes as her "wholesome" internet presence.
Beverly Stayart, CFO and director of business development at Stayart Law Offices in Elkhorn, has brought lawsuits against Google, Yahoo and AdultFriendFinder (an online dating site) alleging that each, in some way, connected her name to either personal ads or ads for erectile dysfunction medications. In the case of Google, she complained that when someone typed her name into a Google search bar, "Beth Stayart Levitra" appeared as a suggestion. To make matters worse, she said, if someone executed that search, ads for several E.D. drugs, such as Viagra and Cialis, appeared alongside the search results.
In the ruling released last week, a panel of three judges at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago sided with Google and concluded that the above phenomena don't constitute a misuse of Stayart's name under Wisconsin's privacy law. In a Catch-22 of sorts, the judges also said Stayart has inadvertently activated the law's public interest exception by suing multiple companies and prompting news coverage on a variety of tech news and legal blogs. "The search term 'bev stayart levitra' is a matter of public interest primarily because Stayart has made it one," the opinion says.
Stayart has created a number of web pages that present an image of herself as a skilled businesswoman, a writer of poetry and a dedicated campaigner for animal rights. According to bevstayart.net, Stayart has an English literature degree from the University of Iowa and an MBA from the University of Chicago, and she's "committed to campaigns protecting wolves from aerial hunters, who have decimated the animals' native populations. Campaigns to preserve wild horse populations in the American West and baby seals in eastern Canada also receive Beverly Stayart's passionate support."
Stayart's case against AdultFriendFinder, which is sometimes referenced on these websites, has fared somewhat more successfully than her cases against search giants Yahoo and Google. Her lawyer, husband Gregory Stayart, told the Wisconsin Gazette last year that the dating service had used Beverly's name to attract new customers without her permission. "My wife is married, obviously, and in no need of a dating service," he said. "My wife is very active on the internet in the area of animal rights. She also has copyrighted poems on the internet. We assume that's how they got her name."
The suit is still pending in Walworth County Court despite an attempt by AdultFriendFinder to move the case to a federal court.
(image from vimeo.com)