Ellen Goldberg, NBC 5 News
The family of a soldier has sued PlentyofFish.com and True.com over the use in ads of a photo of him that taken days before his death in Iraq in 2007.
Two dating websites are being sued for allegedly using a fallen soldier's photo in their ads for "Military Man Searching for Love."
Army Lt. Peter Burks' parents have sued PlentyofFish.com and True.com. They say his photo was used in ads without their permission.
"The implication is that, if you click here, this is one of our members. This is somebody you'll meet -- and people like him -- when this fallen hero has been dead three or four years," said attorney Rogge Dunn, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Burks' parents.
Ruben Buell, True.com president, told NBC 5 on Monday that the company is taking the allegation very seriously and is investigating the matter.
"Our hearts go out to the family of Lt. Burks for their loss," he said. "We assure the family that we will fully investigate this matter and take appropriate action once we have the full details of the matter. Management of TRUE.com would never knowingly use a photo of a fallen soldier to promote our business and looks forward to getting the necessary details in order to take appropriate action."
The parents' attorney said Burks' photo was taken days before he was killed in Iraq in 2007. It's on another website that provides supplies to troops.
Burks' photo apparently was removed from the dating ads recently. But the lawsuit said the companies misled customers and commercially benefited while hurting his family.
"It's just as wrong as it can be on so many different levels," said Alan Burks, the soldier's father.
"To trade on the courage of young men and women that volunteer to serve our country and wear that uniform and for somebody to take advantage of that and use that for commercial gain -- it doesn't get any lower than that," he said.
Vancouver-based Plenty Of Fish told NBC 5 on Monday that it did no online advertising in December 2011 and that "hundreds of thousands of third parties advertise via POF.com every month, the majority coming through networks such as Google AdSense and ad exchanges. Third parties control the content of ads run on POF.com."
Additionally, POF.com said it dealt with the photo issue a month ago and that the ad has been blocked from appearing on its website in accordance with DMCA Safe Harbor provisions.
Burks' parents filed the lawsuit Monday in Dallas, where True.com is based.
NBC 5's Ellen Goldberg contributed to this report.