An Israeli model says a Chinese company named and modeled a sex doll after her down to her 'beauty mark,' but taking legal action could be tricky, a lawyer says

  • Model Yael Cohen Aris says a sex doll company made one with her name and in her likeness.

  • Its creator also appeared to use her photos to promote it in a sex doll forum.

  • Cohen Aris said she's looking to take legal action, but a lawyer said that could be tricky.

It was 2018 when Yael Cohen Aris first received a message from an Instagram follower who said a sex doll company made a doll that resembled her. She brushed it off as a coincidence.

But when she saw the creator appeared to talk about her in an online forum, explaining the doll was inspired by her real social media photos, "it could not be mistaken," she said.

"They even had my beauty mark," said Cohen Aris, a 25-year-old Instagram model, programmer, and Israel Defense Forces veteran. "And somebody said, 'You need to copy her body as well' — something like that.

"The whole discussion was about me," she told Insider.

Cohen Aris, who lives in Israel and has more than 1 million Instagram followers, said she realized the doll wasn't just in her likeness, but it was connected to her identity too. This, she said, felt strange, violating, and invasive.

It's not entirely uncommon for sex dolls and toys to be modeled after real people — often porn stars — with their consent. But Cohen Aris said she never gave consent for this doll to be made.

"It's not just a doll that's similar to Yael, it's a doll that represents me," said Cohen Aris, who in January appeared on the British television show "This Morning" to speak out about the doll. "I think every average person can see there's something very wrong that happened here."

Leonard Liu, the CEO of the manufacturer Irontechdoll, which is based in China and makes and sells sex dolls to retailers around the world, told Insider in an email that "Yael" was designed "according to the taste of Westerners."

"Coincidentally, the name of this model is similar to this doll's name," he said. "To avoid causing any unnecessary misunderstanding, we decided to change this head to another name Ashley.

"At the same time we have to clarify that all of our sex dolls are original, didn't create based on anyone's portrait," Liu added.

He also denied the company used Cohen Aris' personal photos to advertise the doll. However, on the sex doll forum website "The Doll Forum," a person using the account "irontechdoll," who identified themself as "Leonard," introduced the doll in 2018 as "Yael."

Cohen Aris shared screenshots of the forum with Insider, which was able to access it on Wednesday. In a post made September 11, 2018, the account wrote: "We have been creating a new face called yael. Do you like? How will she satisfy your great fantasy? And which body do you want to take photos with? What skin color? Welcome to leave your comment!"

The next day, after another member of the forum suggested the doll should be modified to have features that resembled Kim Kardashian West, the "irontechdoll" account shared four photos of Cohen Aris and said the new doll was "inspired by this beautiful lady."

"I was very helpless," Cohen Aris told Insider. "I was feeling so alone in this, and there were so many companies and sellers, and they were so big, and I was receiving comments about it. I was just very scared."

Insider found at least two retailers still selling the "Yael" doll, including one based in London called Silicone Lovers, which is selling the doll for £1,290 ($1,749). Insider reached out to the company but did not receive a response.

Taking legal action might be tricky, a lawyer told Insider

Cohen Aris first posted to social media about the sex doll in July 2019, and said she had not heard anything from the company. She says she now wants to pursue legal action, but since the company is based in China, her options may be limited.

Cohen Aris said she was still in the process of seeking legal representation and advice.

China is the "wild west of intellectual property," said Stephen Luther, an intellectual property and technology lawyer in Orlando, Florida. He told Insider he routinely deals with cases of unauthorized merchandise and asks companies like Amazon and eBay to remove products.

"A lot of these other platforms are great about it," he said.

"But if you go to Alibaba in China, I've never had them take anything down ever really," he added, referring to the Chinese e-commerce giant.

A person can't make a copyright claim for someone copying their appearance, Luther explained. This would only apply if Cohen Aris was making dolls of herself, and someone copied the likeness of those, Luther said.

Rather, he said, this could fall under publicity or defamation law.

In 2003, a model named Russell Christoff saw his likeness used on Nestle coffee sold in the US, Mexico, and Japan, without his permission. The company had repurposed a photo of him from a 1987 Nestle Canada campaign. He sued and won $15.6 million in damages.

In another case, when the actress Bette Midler declined to do a commercial with Ford, the car company used an imitator for the advertisement. The woman mimicked her voice so well that people thought it was Midler. She sued and won $400,000 in damages.

"Presumably the sex doll has proportions that are similar to the proportions of the actual woman," he said. "My guess is the case would likely turn on whether it is recognizable as her to any appreciable portion of the public.

"If it's not, the defendant probably prevails. If it is, she may have a good claim here," he added.

The law struggles to keep up with technological advances, Luther said

Cohen Aris may have an easier time targeting retailers who are selling the doll in other jurisdictions, such as Silicon Lovers in London or Top Sex Dolls in the Czech Republic, than the company making the dolls, Luther said.

But this may be a case where the law has struggled to keep up with technology as it changes.

"It's not just the laws, it's the judges as well, " Luther said. "Many of whom are very, very bright, but also many of whom are old."

Cohen Aris told Insider this was a concern when she decided to share her story. As technology advances, more people share more and more of themselves online, leading to situations like hers.

"It's a whole humanity thing," she said. "I don't want to call it a problem, because everything getting more advanced is beautiful, but there's also some really important questions to ask, to find how to prevent these situations from happening in the future."

Read the original article on Insider