Carolyn Giles, now 30, worked as a model while studying in New York. She is suing Ford Models, Volvo and Hertz for $23 million for allegedly using her image without her consent.
She spoke exclusively with ABC News reporter Diana Perez.
"I was paid $2,000 unlimited usage for Volvo for their S40 model," she said.
But she says that photo for Volvo has turned up in ad after ad, for all kinds of products from tourism to rental cars in at least 25 different countries. She says the most offensive unauthorized use of her image was on an Australian dating website called FastImpressions.com, promoting a night of socializing sponsored by Volvo that invites singles to "spend a night with a Swedish model of your choice!" and offers "Swedish models of all shapes and sizes."
"They were obviously going for that idea to try and draw people in," Giles said.
The lawsuit says it was done "to make it appear that she may be an escort with extreme sexual and inappropriate connotations and innuendos."
In a statement, Volvo defends its play on words saying, "the 'sexy Swedish models' were cars, not escorts." It says Giles signed a release granting rights for unlimited print and internet placements worldwide for an unlimited time."
But experts say Giles may have a case.
"It's not that Volvo can go around and peddle her pictures to anyone and everyone they choose to," ABC News legal expert Dana Cole said.
Even if she loses, Giles says the lawsuit is just about principle.
"The product is Volvo S40," Giles said. "I didn't say that Volvo could use my image for anything Volvo for the rest of my life...Even if I end up with nothing, I would just be happy if the industry standard changed and people started doing what they're supposed to do."
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