Flava Works Puts Heat on Sizzle Miami Over Advertising

MIAMI — One of the most popular urban gay events in the U.S. has been hit with claims that it used Flava Works' images to promote its annual show last year.

Flava Works, in a suit filed last week, says Sizzle Miami used "multiple" images of its models for its website and email blasts, as well as a print publication, to promote its Memorial Day weekend affair that attracts thousands for a five days in Miami. Sizzle Miami's dominant demographic is men of color, followed by those who like them.

Flava Works, headquartered in Miami with a satellite office in Chicago, produces gay websites featuring black and Latino men. It operates Cocodorm.com, PapiCock.com, ThugBoy.com, CocoBoyz.com and FlavaMen.com. Its Thugsforsex.com website is an online dating portal for black and Latin men, while FlavaMen is a quarterly print production.

The suit, filed at U.S. District Court in Miami, says that Sizzle Miami used copyrighted photos that include well-known gay performers Baby Star, DeAngelo Jackson, Matrix and Xavier Vega.

Flava Works said in the complaint that Sizzle Miami used its trademarks in order to increase its profits.

"[Sizzle Miami] without authorizations used [Flava Works] copyrighted images in the promotion of its events," the suit said. "[S]izzle’s business model depends in part on the notability of those whom attend its events.

Flava Works CEO Phillip Bleicher told XBIZ that Sizzle Miami has a "history of violating others' copyrights and saying sorry later."

He noted that Sizzle Miami continues to advertise Flava Works-branded images on its site that advertises its Memorial Day 2011 event.

"[Sizzle] had no right to use our intellectual property to promote their products and services," he said. "By doing so it diluted our valuable trademarks and is causing confusion among consumers that believe Flava Works endorses his products.

"We filed this lawsuit as part of the overall process to vigorously defend and protect our copyrights and trademarks."

Sizzle Miami co-owner Dwight Powell, who is named to the suit along with co-owner Luis Medrano, told XBIZ he couldn't immediately respond to the suit.

"We don't have a statement because we just got word of the complaint this past Saturday," he said. "The matter has been referred to our attorney."

The copyright suit seeks an injunction against using the photos for future use, as well as damages and attorneys fees.