A suburban New Jersey woman thought she was contributing to an educational video on breastfeeding only to learn, months later, that someone apparently stole footage of her and her newborn daughter and incorporated it into a pornographic video that was attracting thousands of hits on YouTube and elsewhere.
Now MaryAnn Sahoury, 35, worries that the stigma of being associated with Internet pornography will shadow both her and her daughter -- referred to in legal documents as A.S. -- for the rest of their lives.
"A.S. is not even two (2) years old. She will be faced with continuing damage as she engages in elementary school, middle school, high school and then college. This may haunt her for years to come because what has occurred can never entirely be removed from the Internet," according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court against Meredith Corp., the Iowa-based media and marketing giant that filmed Sahoury and her daughter.
Sahoury has sued Meredith Corp. for fraud, misrepresentation and negligence in connection with a video that Meredith said was stolen from its website and misused. In an opinion issued last week, a federal judge wrote that Sahoury's lawsuit could move forward despite Meredith Corp.'s argument that a release form signed by Sahoury allowed Meredith to use her and her daughter's names, and freed Meredith from "any and all claims."
Shorlty after her daughter was born on Dec. 9, 2009, Sahoury was recruited to be a part of a breastfeeding educational video by her lactation consultant, who had been engaged by Parent TV, a Meredith Corp. brand. (Meredith also publishes the popular Parents magazine, Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens.)
After some initial trepidation, Sahoury agreed to participate, without compensation, "because she felt her own personal experience would be insightful and helpful to other first-time mothers who are considering breastfeeding," according to the complaint filed in federal court last year.
Sahoury and her daughter were videotaped at the lactation consultant's New Jersey home in January 2010. During the taping, Sahoury demonstrated how she breastfed her daughter and answered a series of questions. Sahoury has alleged that the woman in charge of the video production said that neither Sahoury's nor her daughter's name would be disclosed in the video. Sahoury said she was told the video would be shown on a Parent TV website and on cable television.
After taping was completed and Sahoury was about to leave, the woman in charge asked her to sign a release, according to the complaint. Sahoury has conceded that she signed the release without reviewing it. In her complaint, Sahoury claims that she believed the release simply confirmed what she was told the morning before shooting began.
In July 2010, Sahoury, a former public relations company employee, did a Google search of her name and was mortified by what she found: multiple links to a video that combined the footage of her breastfeeding her daughter with pornographic footage of a woman who looked like Sahoury.
Sahoury "was mortified and shocked to learn that the defendants filmed, edited and produced the breastfeeding video using M.S's first and last name, contrary to the representations made to M.S. before the video shoot," according to the complaint. "Had the defendants not used M.S.'s last name, the creator of the pornographic video would not have been able to link up the breastfeeding video and the pornographic video with M.S. and A.S., connecting both of them to pornography."
Sahoury did not immediately return calls from ABCNews.com seeking comment from her.
In a motion to dismiss Sahoury's lawsuit, Meredith said that "a rogue faceless person named 'Nizarddd'" stole the breastfeeding video off Meredith's website and posted it to pornography-related sites.
In a statement, the company said it was "appalled that someone would misuse a video meant to help new mothers."
After finding the video online, Sahoury and her lactation consultant contacted Meredith. It was her lactation consultant, Sahoury said, who first determined that someone going by the Internet handle "Nizarddd" had posted the video.
A recent Internet search of the name "Nizarddd" yielded a profile on the photo-sharing site flickr that included galleries of photos of women nursing, as well as one gallery labeled "tits," showing well-endowed women in cleavage-baring outfits. A post on the site mother.com by "nizarddd" included three links to videos of women nursing and using breast pumps -- parts of the videos appeared to be slowed down from their original speeds -- and a link to a "nizarddd1" YouTube channel. Clicking on the channel link leads to a message from YouTube advising that the account "has been suspended due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy on nudity or sexual content."
In her complaint, Sahoury said Meredith at first "exhibited a sense of urgency" in helping her, but by August 2010, its interested had waned.
In a statement, Meredith defended its efforts to help Sahoury.
"Meredith took immediate and substantial action when made aware of the situation, and we have gone above and beyond any contractual responsibilities, expending a substantial amount of time and money," the company said. "We have hired leading law firms to file take-down demands, and retained top Internet specialists to both clear online caches and create positive references. We are confident that the steps we have taken are helping to mitigate the issue. We are continuing these good-faith efforts even after Ms. Sahoury filed her lawsuit."
Despite the efforts of Internet experts, links associating Sahoury and her daughter with pornography continue to pop up online, Sahoury has alleged. "Nizarrrd" also sent Sahoury a friend request on Facebook, prompting Sahoury to delete her Facebook account.
As a result of the Internet video, Sahoury has experienced panic attacks, vomiting and depression, according to the lawsuit.
"Having been told that this will never completely go away has only made matters worse," the complaint said.