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Elaine’s picture used without permission on Chinese halloween costumes

A Chinese company used Elaine's picture on their product without permission

This morning my wife was shopping at Carrefour and she was looking at some of the Halloween costumes on sale for our kids. She noticed a picture of a girl that looks a lot like Elaine, so she took better look. Then she got a shock because she realized it was a picture of Elaine!

The photoshopped picture of Elaine

Turns out that a Chinese company had used an older picture of Elaine, badly photoshopped it with their halloween custome and put it on the packaging material of their products. Of course we never gave permission for this. The products are sold in many stores in China, among others Carrefour and Walmart. Not sure yet what we will do, will discuss with my wife when I am back in China tomorrow.

Elaine's original picture

By the way, it’s not only Chinese companies that do this, something similar happened once with Nokia: one of my Flickr pictures ended up in a campaign for the Nokia E65!

Update (Oct. 11, 2011): Grace contacted the company, after some discussions they told us that they used Elaine’s picture for 2 products and agreed to change all the packaging with her picture on it. Let’s see if they will really do it. Hopefully no need for a court case.

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  1. Well, between the Nokia and the Halloween costume, you should start preparing for an early retirement based on the large financial settlement you are owed. Don’t take this laying down; get a lawyer and go to town on these thieves, if not for the money then for the principle of it. I would like to say, however, that I find it odd that your photos have been stolen and used without permission TWICE; either you are a real pushover, or something you are doing is giving people the impression that it’s okay to use your images as they wish. Try protecting your intellectual property a little better from now on!

  2. how did they get the picture ? did you put it on flickr ?

    you cant blame them. she’s an absolute angel !

  3. @debbie It was on my wife’s Flickr account, not sure if also on mine. Both accounts state clearly that pictures can’t be used for commercial purposes.

  4. @Bob If I fight this it is more for principle than for money. I think a lot more people’s pictures get used, but most you never find out about. It is pure coincidence that we found both the Nokia and the Halloween pictures. I would not be surprised if a lot more of my pictures are out there on products or in ads without me knowing about it.

  5. @ADM Yes, fully agree. The funny thing is that Elaine looked at the picture later (Grace actually bought one of the articles) and was not happy because she did not like the Halloween outfit they photoshopped on her 🙂

  6. @confused laowai: It’s really weird if this happens, makes you wonder what else is happening that you don’t know about

  7. Get some money out of it and put it in a trust fund for you daughter.

  8. I really would love it if you could win this, but I fear it will be quite hard and lots of work.

  9. well she’s famous now. thats the importan thing
    now how can you leverage that ?

  10. Update: Grace contacted the company yesterday, after some “discussions” they told us that they used Elaine’s picture for 2 products and agreed to change all the packaging with her picture on it. Let’s see if they will really do it. Hopefully no need for a court case. It’s about principle for me, not looking to make any money out of this.

  11. It’s a headache you don’t necessarily need — and thank goodness they haven’t done any harm to Elaine, otherwise this would be an entirely different discussion — but if someone wants a project to tackle with a lot of hours invested (someone who likes to haggle and dicker), this might be right up their alley…

    Karma’s a b-word, like they say…seems like Elaine knew exactly what she was doing…good girl!

  12. Just saw the costume with the package in Tesco (Zhongshan Bei Lu) on Sunday. Interesting coincident, but very annoying, hope they deal with it quickly.

  13. Wow, what a story. I have a few comments.

    1) Elaine is adorable!

    2) She has a great sense of style. That costume is not that cute and I know she could pick something better!

    3) I can imagine that this happens all the time in China. I wonder if my face is on any random products.

    4) Happy Halloween! Best holiday of the year. Have fun.

  14. wow.. you reject free money? I have heard similar cases, and the company paid €10k per picture, and then still had to remove the picture. Copyright is not to be trifled with (at least in Europe)

    Commendable action, money probably isn’t that important to you.

  15. Reminds me of an old friend in Dalian, who on waiting at a bus stop, was shocked to see a bus arriving with a huge head and shoulders photo of himself on the side of the bus. The ad was for an English school and he was the director of a competitor. He sued and won compensation. The ads were removed but it took quite a while to sort. Still he got his 15 minutes of fame … with locals, including pretty girls, approaching him in the street and asking him if he was the guy from the bus ad!