LOS ANGELES—Buxom Brandi Passante, who stars on the reality show Storage Wars, is furious at bad boy Hunter Moore, whose infamous site IsAnyoneUp.com was the archetypal "stalker porn" destination before he took it offline in April after supposedly seeing the light.
According to a lawsuit filed by Passante this week in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif., however, Moore is anything but reformed. Still, we're not sure Passante, who is a bona fide celebrity, will prevail in this odd case that revolves around a sex video and some photos that were allegedly promoted by Moore as being her. They are not, but the complaint alleges that Moore posted it to several sites, and also sent it to Fleshbot around the middle of October, where it .
Speaking of Fleshbot, the complaint refers to the site as a place "known for hosting porn and other such filth," which pretty much indicates the basic perspective of the lawsuit. Passante is mortified to have been associated, even fictitiously, with porn, which she characterizes in the complaint as being "by its very nature... offensive to a reasonable person." That claim is, of course, highly debatable, as many eminently reasonable people (us, for instance) are quite fond of pornography, but the suit nonetheless claims that "as a direct result of Moore's actions, Passante has suffered incalculable damages and irreparable harm."
However, the post on Fleshbot that contains the video contains no mention of Moore and is headlined with a question: "Is This The Brandi Passante Masturbation Tape?" In addition, the text that accompanies the video repeatedly questions whether the masturbating girl in it is Passante ("The nose has a similar shape to it, especially around the nostrils, and it looks like they have the same chin, but we simply can’t tell"), and the comments seem to rule out that it is her. "Not her - not even close," wrote commenter Case12."
The complaint also alleges that Moore posted the video and photos to his own blog site and also to his Tumblr page, but a search of both found no video or photos—if they were there, they have since been taken down. If they were removed, it may have been as a result of being served, because the complaint does not indicate any attempts to serve Moore with a request to have them removed or a C&D before the suit was filed.
The lawsuit also is a little odd in that it alleges irreparable harm, but a Google search for Passante's name indicates no results for the video...until after she filed the lawsuit. Whatever "marketing" Moore was doing to promote it wasn't working in terms of SEO, that's for sure. The complaint says that Passante found out about it on Oct. 14, when she "began to receive unsolicited posts on her Twitter account stating "Can't wait to see the video>," "Love the pics," and similar references to images posted to <is-anyone-up.tumblr.com," but it does not state who the posts were from, and as stated the offending content has been removed.
The complaint adds that after learning of the posts, as well as "the subsequent posting of the full video on one or more separate websites, Passante has experienced anxiety, loss of sleep, and physical illness as a direct and proximate result of Moore's conduct. Passante knows that such false exposure will eventually reach her children, their friends and their friends' families."
That may be so, but it could also be argued that that no one, including us, would have ever known about the video if Passante herself had not alerted us to its existence by suing Moore. Additionally, it might be an uphill battle for her lawyer to prove that Moore really intended anyone to think the video was her. When he allegedly tweeted, "Anyone want the video of brandi from storage wars fingering herself for me," for instance, the "for me" comment could be read to indicate the false (i.e. exaggerated) nature of the tweet and the video.
Another indication that the video was not being seriously promoted as being Passante was the treatment given it by Fleshbot. Assuming they did get it directly from Moore, and that he wanted them to believe it was Passante, the ruse failed miserably. Fleshbot instead treated it like the faux thing it is. Not only that, but the fact that the video is still up means Fleshbot feels secure in its legal right to continue hosting it.
Furthermore, if the video was meant as a joke, albeit a stupid one, then this case may even have less of a chance of success. After all, Larry Flynt already went with Jerry Falwell when he published an "offensive ad parody in Hustler that suggested that Falwell's first sexual encounter was with his mother in an out-house." Flynt's Supreme Court victory "clarified that public figures cannot recover damages for 'intentional infliction of emotional distress' based on parodies." Though a bit of a stretch, the video here could tangentially fit into the parody category, making Passante's "anxiety, loss of sleep, and physical illness" something she may have to endure as the price of her celebrity.
We feel for her, just was we feel for the innumerable other less-famous people who found themselves on the wrong end of a Moore post, but we can't help feeling that in suing she's helped create her own self-fulfilling prophecy.
It's too bad. It's not like we don't wish she had the goods.
The complaint and attached exhibits can be accessed .