UQAM, student reach settlement over explicit social media post lawsuit

The Universite de Quebec a Montreal has reached an out-of-court settlement with a visual arts student after suing her for $125,000.

Helene Boudreau was hit with the lawsuit after the university had complained that she hurt its reputation by posting explicit photos of herself with the UQAM logo to her social media accounts.

In a statement on the university's website, it said the deal was reached Wednesday and it puts an end to the legal battle that had unleashed a wave of support from other women who posted explicit photos of themselves online in solidarity with Boudreau.

Boudreau has agreed not to post or share intimate photos of herself associated with the UQAM logo as part of the settlement, according to the university’s statement.

UQAM said "it had no choice" but to take the student to court to protect its reputation.

"UQAM didn’t want nor does it want to limit freedom of expression, a value that is dear to it. Neither does it harbour prejudices about sex work, as some people have claimed," the university’s statement read.

"The heart of its approach is the use of its name and logo in an inappropriate context and the marketing of these to promote a paid website for intimate photos."

Boudreau's lawyer, Jason Novak, said in a written statement that he was proud of his client for her "fight for her freedom of artistic expression."

"We believe that the settlement is favourable for Ms. Boudreau’s interests. The definitive end to these legal proceedings will allow Ms. Boudreau to focus her efforts on her passion for art, rather than be tied up in protracted litigation for years to come."

Boudreau's supporters had accused UQAM of hypocrisy and being unfair to the student and began rallying behind her on social media with the #papauqam hashtag. 

The first explicit photo that caught the university’s attention was posted on Feb. 24 to her Instagram account, which was not private, in which she exposes part of her breasts with a diploma clearly showing the UQAM logo. She shared the same photo the following day on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, according to the lawsuit.

On March 2, the university’s vice-rector for academic life, Jean-Christian Pleau, contacted Boudreau requesting she remove the posts. She removed the Instagram post, but left the photos online on her Twitter and Facebook profiles, the lawsuit stated.

According to the lawsuit, in another post on March 12 on her Facebook, Boudreau is seen partially naked and gives the middle finger with a UQAM banner behind her celebrating the university’s 50th birthday.

She is also alleged to have used similar photos to promote her content on OnlyFans, an adult website that has been profitable to the woman. According to the lawsuit, it’s alleged that Boudreau gave an interview to the newspaper 24 Heures, in which she said she earns upwards of $20,000 per month from her content.

The university said Wednesday that freedom of expression cannot “justify an attack on the name and logo of UQAM or their commercial exploitation without authorization.”

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