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Arrington v. New York Times Co.
New York Court of Appeals
449 N.Y.S.2d 941 (1982)
New York Times Magazine published a cover story titled “The Black Middle Class: Making It” about the expanding Black middle class. The cover illustration was a photograph of financial analyst Clarence Arrington. The photo was taken without Arrington’s permission by a freelance photographer. The photographer sold it to a photo agency, which sold it to the New York Times Co. The magazine cover only displayed Arrington’s photograph and the article title. The article’s text never mentioned Arrington. Arrington filed suit in state court against the New York Times, the freelance photographer, and the photo agency (defendants), alleging violations of §§ 50 and 51 of New York Civil Rights Law. Arrington claimed that the publication subjected him to ridicule by others who believed he endorsed the ideas represented in the article. Arrington argued that his photograph had no real relationship to the article because he was not part of the status-obsessed Black middle class he understood the article to describe, and he disagreed with the views espoused by the author. Arrington did not deny that objective observations could support a perception that he was a member of the Black middle class. The New York Times, the freelance photographer, and the photo agency moved to dismiss the claims for failure to state a cause of action. The district court granted the motion, and Arrington appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Fuchsberg, J.)
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