The plot thickens.

I've been thinking about the 'Be Careful Out There' story I posted yesterday. It raises a number of issues.

First - who's been ripped off? As I see it, there are two parties here, the photographer, Gina Kelly, and the Smith family.

The photographer owns the copyright to the image, and appears (but see below) to have had it infringed. As a photographer you own the copyright to whatever photo you take, no matter who or what it is of.

The Smith family have no legal rights to the image (unless the photographer has ceded these) but they do have rights over their likeness being used for commercial purposes. This is why photographers ask for a signed model release if, for example, they intend to sell an image of someone through a stock agency. The release grants the photographer, and anyone assigned by the photographer, the right to use the model's image commercially.

But there is another puzzling aspect to this story.

The image on the store-front is huge, well over life-size:

(Copyright © Extraordinary Mommy)

To get a half-way decent image this size you've got to start off with something which is already pretty big. Most major agencies that can provide the material for adverts like this deal with images that are 45-50MB. What's more, the the background has been expertly removed from the original photograph to create the advertising version.

So where did the photo for the advertisement come from?

The majority of blogging and social networking sites don't allow large images to be posted. The maximum size here on Blogger is 8MB. On Facebook it's smaller. Even putting a large original photograph on your personal web site is pretty impractical. It can be done, but it will take a while to upload and then will slow down the page enormously.

Did the photographer submit the image to a stock agency without the family's permission? Danielle Smith assures us that she did not.

Did someone, somehow, manage to steal the original from the photographer, remove the background and submit it as a stock image? Seems highly unlikely (though not entirely impossible).

Did it genuinely come off the web? If so, how did they do it?

Or is there another possibility?

One thing we can be sure of - the shopkeeper didn't commission that poster in his window. The shop is part of the Grazie Company which is a big Italian food conglomerate. I'd lay good money that this same image appears on shops all over the Czech Republic. Maybe even further afield.

So, whilst you have to admire the Smith family for not reaching immediately for the bludgeon of litigation, there are a few unanswered questions here.

It would be interesting to hear from both the photographer and the Grazie Company in order too get to the bottom of this mystery - where did the photograph really come from?

Image theft is becoming more and more common these days. It wouldn't be a bad idea if a few salutary examples were made.

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