Take a look at the photo below and if you know me, there is no way you won’t be intrigued to read the complete story.
Early in April, I got a surprise text from a friend asking ‘Tune modelling bhi start ki hai kya?’ (Are you trying ‘modelling’ as a career as well?) I laughed it off, wondering why he would ask me such an out-of-the-blue question. And then he said ‘Oh I thought this is you’ and sent me these photos.
|Picture courtesy: Arpit Shah, the friend who brought the whole issue to my notice|
I just stared at the photo in disbelief and had absolutely no clue what to say or think. He then went on to tell me that his cousin spotted this at a shop in Mahavir Nagar, Kandivali (W), here in Mumbai.
I couldn’t understand if I should be happy (for the unexpected ‘fame’) or angry (for unauthorised use of my photo).
I posted the discovery on facebook and got mixed reactions from people, but all with a similar thought- ‘Get compensation’, ‘File a case’, ‘Ask him for a lifetime supply of free golas’, and so on.
I decided to go to the store and find out the whole story before taking any steps.
I did a Google image search for ‘ice gola mumbai’ and the photo appeared in the first few rows of the result. The justdial page of the shop also houses the poster. Check here.
The photo had originally been clicked by my college friend in May 2014, on our first day in Mumbai, at Juhu Beach. I had later posted the photo here on my blog along with a copyright mark (It’s still there in its original form, check it out). So obviously, Google’s crawlers did a good job and indexed the photo in their search directory.
What would have happened (and this we assumed) was: The shop owner would have looked for images of people eating gola on google and would have landed on my image and used it for his store, cropping the copyright part out of the enlarged poster. (They didn’t crop out the ‘Indiblogger’ logo on my tshirt- I wonder if the IB guys would want to do something about it. Renie, Vineet, Anoop, Karthik- are you reading this?)
Whenever I put up a good photograph clicked by me on the blog, I tend to watermark it in a way that it cannot be used by anyone else. But mostly, the photos I post are those of me. I never ever thought that anyone would want to use my photo in any way and so the watermark with the copyright used to go in one bottom corner of the picture. And that’s where I ‘underestimated’ myself. Haha!
Due to some reason or the other, and with commitments at work, the visit to the store kept getting delayed. Today, with two of my friends, I finally went in search of this store in Kandivali, wondering if the photo was still there and what our course of action should be.
We decided to audio-record the entire conversation. We reached the store and the photo was still there. I just looked at it and couldn’t stop laughing in amazement. I didn’t know what to do about it. We decided to speak to the owner and take the whole thing in a fun and jovial way, and as per the kind of reaction we get from them we would think of the next steps.
We entered the store, which was a small but nice sitting place, right on the main road. We were handed the menu and we kept speaking loudly. ‘We should get the most expensive one’ and that too for free. The owner, Mr. Ravi Mehta, laughed and said ‘Sure’. We wondered if he had realised that the guy in the poster outside his shop was standing right in front of him. As it became clear from the conversation that followed, he hadn’t until we told him.
All the employees were interested in the conversation happening right now and kept listening and smiling. As soon as we brought up the issue in front of the owner, he looked at me and realised what we were saying. By this time he had realised that we were recording the whole thing (not that we were doing it secretly) and was quite cool about it.
On further questioning about the source of the photograph, he told us that his friend had helped him setup the place last Diwali (Nov 2015) and had got some printer to ‘print gola khaate hue photo’ (Print the photo of a person having gola). He confessed he had absolutely no clue about the source of the photo and proceeded to arrange for the printer’s contact number so we could directly speak to him. On not being able to reach him, he gave us his own visiting card and asked us to give him a call on Monday morning so he could get us in touch with the printer.
All of it happened in a fun and humourous conversation. One of the shop employees told us ‘A customer had clicked photos of the poster and had told him that it was his friend’s’. Well, that’s true and had the owners been worried about a legal case they would probably have got it removed immediately. But they hadn’t even after close to 25 days passing since my friend first discovered it.
We took some fun photographs with the poster and the owner as they went on to serve us a special butterscotch gola. (It was different, but good)
|With the owner, Mr. Mehta and the poster.|
|Believe me, it feels super weird to see your own photo like this!|
|The entire conversation with the owner was recorded.|
We were surprised when Mr.Mehta said this: ‘This is just a picture of you having a gola and that’s the way it has been used. What if someone had used it in some derogatory or defamatory way? That wouldn’t have been right.’
So he did understand the gravity of the matter after all. This had been our exact thought before going there, and one of the reasons for the delay in going to the shop. Right now the use of my photo isn’t doing me any harm; but it could have done and we wouldn’t be so calm then.
We were wondering what to do next. Would the tussle of a legal case be worth it? The guy seemed unaware of his mistake (or that’s what he pretended in front of us). We decided it would be best to have an open and frank conversation.
We told him what the repercussions of a legal case could be and why, as the owner of the place, he was liable (and not his printing guy) for the placing of the poster (someone else’s unauthorised use of photograph) for promotion (commercial benefit). He didn’t seem to be aware of the legal issues in matters of pictures used from the internet because that’s something everyone does at all times. [We didn't even go close to the 'copyright' issue- that's a different ballgame altogether]
Well, it was his bad luck that the guy whose photo he used, turned up at his store.
He asked us what we wanted him to do and we asked him to take the photo down and carefully check before using any random person’s photo the next time. When my friend asked him about the payment for the gola, he refused and said ‘If it is for free, then I am certain you would come back again for more golas’.
We asked him if he would give us lifetime supply of free golas for the use of my photo. He laughed and agreed.
‘What if we get people with us. Would it be free for them too?’ we asked.
‘Definetely,’ said Mr.Mehta.
‘What if we get a 100 people with us?’
‘Free for them, but since we would be making golas at such a large scale in a short time, no guarantee on the quality,’ he laughed.
They immediately took the poster down. We had a good laugh and left.
We have the entire conversation recorded in audio, some photos and a short video. But I don’t think taking the legal way would be worth it. When we upload pictures on the web (or without checking the privacy settings on social media), we are giving free access to them to the whole world. It was a coincidence that the use of one of my photos was traced by the lucky visit of my friend to the store. Who else and in what way are my other photos being used? (Come on, when and how did I become a ‘face’ of publicity?)
This is something very serious that most of us are very casual about. We keep uploading photos and sharing details of our lives with ‘public’ also-known-as ‘strangers’ on instagram, facebook and twitter. Technology has made us reach farther and more people, and at the same time it has increased the chances of cases like this happening and you cannot disagree.
For me, at least my photos on social media have limited and only the desired set of friends as audience. Photos on the blog will now be uploaded at limited resolution having an ugly looking watermark right in the centre, (hopefully) rendering it useless for any further use.
Taking up the gola-shop’s case won’t solve the problem. So what’s next? I guess it’s just better awareness that we need to have; a little more care that we need to take while on the internet.
Fellow Bloggers, I am sure you can understand my predicament. Any suggestions on what should be done in the case? It is easy to say ‘File a case’, but is it really that simple? Would the time and energy spent on it be worth it? What would you have done had you been in my situation?