Chinese Liu Qiao, the father in a viral photo that featured him holding an umbrella over his son in rain, has sought legal advice after finding the image was used inappropriately by companies for commercial purposes, reports The Paper.
A soaked Liu was snapped in 2015 while holding an umbrella for his son while they were their way home in Flushing, New York City. Since then, many variations and memes based on the image have been shared widely, mostly for non-commercial, public purposes.
However, Liu has found that the photo was recently being used by some enterprises for commercial purposes. Wine producer Wuliangye and e-commerce giant JD.com have both used the image in an advertising campaign.
Photo from The Paper, showing the Wuliangye advert.
According to The Paper, the poster, which prominently uses Liu's photo, has been seen at stations of the Shanghai Metro since the middle of June, captioned "Imperfect Father, Perfect Love." A bottle of alcohol and a QR code at the bottom of the image explicitly suggest the advert is solely for commercial purchases.
Having seen his photo being indiscriminately used without his permission, Liu decided to resort to his lawyer, because he felt uncomfortable seeing the photo being used in commercial advertisements, especially for wine.
"It is acceptable to me that this photo is used for public benefits, but there have been an increasing number of companies using it and even photoshopping it. My lawyer has delivered a letter to these companies," Liu explained to The Paper, adding he hoped a legal move would stop companies from using the photo.
Wang Zhiyong, Liu's lawyer, also cited a report from the People's Daily, saying that advertisements for medicines and wines should not contain any images of children.
"According to the country's law on copyright, civil law and criminal law, we require Wuliangye, together with JD to pull down the poster," Wang said adding that "Liu Qiao is entitled to image rights."
Together with the wine poster, some other commercial uses have also been spotted, like telecommunication ads, insurance marketing and movie posters.
Chinese netizens showed their support for Liu's decision online.
"It is an infringement if users do not ask for permission," @Shiya posted on Weibo.
"Support protection of rights. Do not let misuse affect the connotation the photo implies," @Liuyiqiu commented.
"I would be unhappy if my kid was photoshopped into a hedgehog in a photo," @Jiyunchun commented, agreeing it was unacceptable to edit the photo without Liu's permission.