When a meme just isn’t funny – man with Down Syndrome sues over use of his photo

3 May 2013

A US-based man with Down Syndrome is suing a radio station, an internet company and another individual for US$18m after a photo of him taken nine years ago became an internet meme.

A photo of Adam Holland participating in an art class in 2004 became an internet meme after someone affiliated with the art class posted it online.

According to CBC/Radio Canada, the photo generated more than 21,000 views online as people began repurposing the photo and writing offensive messages on the sheet of paper that Holland is holding in the photo.

The lawsuit that Holland is taking against Florida radio station WHPT-FM, SignGenerator.org and a resident of Minnesota called Russell LaLevee has raised questions over how people with mental and physical disabilities are treated online.

When the photo was taken in 2004, Holland was 19 and was participating in an art class at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Internet meme image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years