If you need a handsome face for your product's label or a cute kid for your PSA poster, you could go through the trouble of hiring somebody and doing a photo shoot ... or you could simply open up your magical computing device and go grab any old pic that seems right. This practice is why today, a random nobody can be wondering down the sidewalk, look at a billboard for a thing they've never heard of, and say, "Wait, is that me?"
Everyone likes yogurt, right? No. I have had a two-year feud with yogurt for reasons I legally can't get into here. That said, there's one man who hates yogurt more than me out there, and that man is Minas Karatzoglis (whose name may actually be Minas Karatzoglou, because the media is super awesome at research and I found both listed in different articles about the same story).
The multi-named Greek man was informed by a friend one day that they'd seen his picture on a container of Turkish-style yogurt (which was, naturally, made by a Swedish company). Our Greek friend, who'd had his picture taken years earlier at a fair wearing traditional garb, had no idea anyone used the photo for anything, and he definitely didn't give permission for it to be used to shill yogurt.
In a weirdly prejudicial twist, the man was wearing weapons owned by his great-grandfather in the photo -- weapons he'd used to fight the Turks years earlier when Greece separated from the Ottoman Empire. So of all the yogurts in all the world, they put his face on the yogurt of the people who once tried to kill his family. And man, did he not like that. In fact, it was the idea that he might be mistaken for a Turk that offended him more than merely having his photo stolen.
To be fair, "stolen" may be too strong a word. The Swedish yogurt barons swore they licensed the image from a stock photo service, which is entirely possible. Photographers are known to snap photos of people in public and sell them to such services. Still, after suing for several million Euros, the man was awarded 160,000. In retrospect, this does kind of seem like the face of a dude whom you should probably ask before sticking him on a dairy product.
Raising a child with a disability has to be a pretty trying undertaking for any parent. The last thing you need is to discover that some shitgibbon on the other side of the planet not only stole photos of your kid for an ad campaign, but also did so for a genetic testing firm. As in, an ad telling people how to not have a kid like yours. Jesus.
Christie Hoos was just your average Canadian mom. She was raising four kids, eating poutine, fighting moose in the yard, the stuff us Canadians do to get by. One of her children, ten-year-old Becca, has Down syndrome. Hoos posted the girl's photo on her personal blog to talk about how Becca was undergoing treatment for leukemia.
Meanwhile in Europe, some guy who couldn't pass the entrance exam at supervillain school took a job at Swiss biomedical firm Genoma. He used Becca's image in giant banners for a genetic testing process called Tranquility, which Genoma advertised in Spain. Like in the previous example, the firm said they got the image from a stock photo company, which sidesteps the point of how they're advertising a way to avoid having the very child they're using in their ad. They also said the images were only meant to be used internally, so it was one of those cases of an accidental giant banner being displayed in public that we hear about in the news all the time.
Parents in Spain were offended as soon as the ads appeared, and when Hoos got word, she was obviously very upset. The company took them down and apologized, which is nice, but "It was all a horrific mistake" isn't much comfort from a firm in charge of testing people's goddamned DNA.
You had to know there would be at least one example of this on the list.
The porn in question was called Body Magic (that's not a link to the movie, but a news story about it), which is the sort of title you'd give a porno after you wake up wearing a film of whiskey and tobacco and need to have some ideas on the desk of whoever you tricked into investing in this scam in 15 minutes. The art featured on the case and DVD itself is of a young woman in a black dress, seated between two red curtains and pulling slightly at the edge of the top hat on her head with one hand.
It's a simple photograph, and not in any way lascivious, or even connected to anything that happens in the movie. It's also a self-portrait from a photographer named Lara Jade Coton, and she was 14 when she took it.
Lara Jade Coton/TVX Films
Coton had a DeviantArt page where she posted her work, including said photo. A fan of hers messaged saying that they, uh, recognized the image. When Coton tracked down the producer of the DVD, she got the following message. This is exactly as they sent it to her, complete with caps and a crippling lack of self-awareness:
I'M SURE BY THE END OF THE MONTH YOUR FACE WILL BE HISTORY. WE HAVE STOPPED SELLING THE DVD UNTIL COVER IS REPLACED. WE HAVE FURTHER CHECKED OUT YOUR NAME AND ITS NOT LIKE IT'S A HOUSE WHOLE NAME. ACTUALLY, REMOVING YOUR IMAGE WILL HELP IMPROVE THE SELL OF THE DVD ..... SO FAR IT BOMBED
Honestly, I'm not sure what else I'd have expected. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot Coton could do at this point. She lived in the UK, and the company that pilfered her picture was in Texas. Without a lot of money to toss around, no UK lawyers were eager to try to sue an American company. But a Florida-based attorney got wind of the story and took the case, which she eventually won after several years, netting her $130,000.
The Tennessee Republican Party, known for their even-handed and affable approach to politics, like the time they issued a press release of Barack Obama in Kenyan attire and described it as "Muslim," released an attack ad against state senate candidate Gayle Jordan because she officiated a gay wedding. The ad featured a picture of Jordan taken from her Facebook page, and showed the wedding ceremony. Of course, no one asked the two men getting married if they wanted to be shown under the words "Liberal Gayle Jordan will destroy the fabric of American society," which is a thing some people think two married men are doing when they're sitting on their sofa watching Chopped on a Tuesday night.
Shane Morgan/Tennessee Republican Party
Shane Morgan and his husband Landon hired an attorney after the ad, depicting their own wedding, showed up in the mail. Not that it was addressed specifically to them; it was just one of those shitty mailers that go out to everyone in a district when some kind of election is on the horizon. Which meant everyone in the area had to see it. The men's faces were blurred, but only in that lazy way that makes it look like you poked yourself with your own intolerant finger for a moment. Beyond the aforementioned hiring of a lawyer, there's not much to report. These things usually take years.
In the same vein, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois mailed out a bunch of ads touting his pro-life stance that featured him surrounded by a bevy of ladies all eager to never have abortions for any reason whatsoever, because in America you should only kill people accidentally and/or on purpose with guns, or in prisons, or if they're too poor to live, or if the police don't like the way they look, or if they're trying to get into the country, and maybe out, we'll see.
Adam Kinzinger/Illinois Republican Party
The problem with Kinzinger's ad -- well, one of the problems -- was that those women weren't pro-life advocates. They were actually from the Voluntary Action Center in DeKalb. They were at the center making meals when the photo was taken two years previously, when Kinzinger showed up to do that thing politicians do wherein they pretend normal humans don't recoil from them and get photographic evidence of it. The Center provides services for members of the community -- things like Meals on Wheels and transportation assistance for seniors who need to get to the doctor. None of that involves shilling for a local politician's half-assed mailers.
True to form, the party passed the blame onto someone else, claiming a third-party vendor was responsible for the mailer. Because you can't enter politics anywhere on Earth without knowing how to throw absolutely anyone under the bus at the drop of a hat.
Cleo Berry, an actor from LA, made a bit of scratch in his past by posing for some generic photos. He got paid, they were nothing out of the ordinary, and he probably assumed that if he ever saw them again, they'd be stock photos in an ad for lip balm or cat litter or something. And unlike the other poor bastards on the list, he was willingly taking the picture for cash. Really, what could he have to complain about?
Well, the pics wound up on a billboard in New York City, the lamentable focus of a diabetes awareness campaign. Berry's leg was Photoshopped out of the picture to appear as if it'd been amputated, with a scary red warning hovering next to him as he sat on a stool looking sad and forlorn behind all the cups of sugary soda he drank until his diabetic-ass leg had to be sawed off.
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Yes, the people behind the "If you don't start drinking water then fuck you, Diabeto" campaign had decided that Berry, who was a bit of a husky gentleman, was the perfect example of someone whose runaway portions had caused one of his limbs to die. He apparently has no grounds for a formal complaint. He got paid for the photo shoot and signed a release that probably clears them to use it for everything, up to and including porn. (Or hell, amputee porn. It's out there.) Photoshopping an able-bodied person to have one fewer limb when they needed a picture of someone with a disability is gross but not actionable.
The campaign was quick to point out that none of this matters, since it's for a good cause. If these misleading, gross pictures encouraged even one child to drink a smaller soda, it was all worth it.
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