On Feb. 28, the Smoking Gun published a letter from a lawyer for "Into the Blue" star Jessica Alba threatening to sue Playboy Enterprises for use of an unauthorized photograph of her on the cover of Playboy's March issue. Attorney Brian Wolf writes that after Alba turned down the magazine's offer to pose, an agreement was struck to use "a certain publicity photo of Ms. Alba, featured in red and black, within the subject article" ("The 25 Sexiest Celebrities"). Instead, according to Wolf, Playboy used a promotional still (in which Alba is clad in a very skimpy blue and beige bikini) from her 2005 film on its cover, giving the erroneous impression that she appears "nude or semi-nude" inside the magazine's pages, when in fact she does not. According to Wolf's letter, "Playboy has established a known custom and practice (and an expectation with and among the public) that any woman whose photograph is featured on the cover appears in a nude or semi-nude pictorial in that month's issue." What's more, he writes, because Playboy is sold in a plastic sheath, anyone who doesn't buy the magazine would be led to believe that Alba willingly posed for the cover or inside.
Wolf's demands include that Playboy "cease and desist from any further sale, dissemination and publication" of the issue and that the company provide Alba with a "monetary settlement" compensating her for "the damages and immeasurable harm caused to her good name, reputation, and career."
The Smoking Gun also published a letter from Sony Pictures, which released "Into the Blue," expressing "dismay and anger over the outrageous, unethical behavior utilized by Playboy personnel" in obtaining the Alba photo that wound up on the cover.
Brad Cafarelli, a publicist for Alba, 25, told Salon by e-mail that the actress is not currently available for interviews. He offered a statement confirming that Alba's attorneys have "issued a demand letter to Playboy Enterprises Inc., outlining claims arising from its unauthorized use of a full-page cover photo of Ms. Alba on the March 2006 issue of Playboy Magazine ('25 Sexiest Celebrities'). The image, an advertising shot for the feature film, 'Into the Blue,' was published on the cover of Playboy without Ms. Alba's knowledge or consent, nor was it authorized by Sony Pictures, which owns the image. Alba's attorneys contend that the use of her photograph on the cover of Playboy is intended to mislead the public to believe that she appears nude or partially nude in the magazine, which she does not."
Cafarelli's e-mail also included a statement from Alba, who said, "Playboy has violated my personal rights and blatantly misled the public who might think I had given them permission to put me on their cover when I didn't. I'm simply protecting my personal rights and I hope that they will think twice before they try to do this to someone else."
Lauren Melone, vice president of public relations for Playboy Enterprises, responded with a statement that read, in part: "Jessica Alba was chosen as the sexiest star of the year by our readers through a poll conducted online. Our editors assembled photographs of the top 25 vote getters for our annual '25 Sexiest Celebrity' feature, and we put her on the cover based on the poll results."
The statement went on to clarify that "many celebrities have appeared on the cover of Playboy, but not nude, including Barbra Streisand, Paris Hilton, Raquel Welch, Brooke Shields, Goldie Hawn, Claudia Schiffer, and Jerry Seinfeld."