CVS Stole My Face!

April 20, 2009  |  Personal

For those of you following the saga of CVS using my face in their ads, I’m now in the process of trying to figure out if CVS stole a photo of mine, or if they have only stolen my likeness.  Depending on which it is, the case will be entirely different, though both are illegal.  So, I’ve been pouring over my archives to see if I can find the original photo, and my mother is doing likewise.  Judging by the weight on my face, my haircut, and the necklace and glasses I’m wearing, I think this photo is from around 2005-2006-ish, which helps to narrow my search down considerably.

I’m curious as to who ended up being lazy and searching for photos to use instead of paying models.  Regardless of who it is that took that shortcut, CVS is still at fault.  They have a responsibility to make sure that the people in their advertising have model releases to go along with them, just as a newspaper is responsible for bad fact-checking by one of their reporters.  Considering that models posing for photos intended to go into national advertising can generally expect pretty hefty compensation, I’d say that CVS needs to pony up.

For those curious, here are the two photos that my friend took:



I have been told by folks in both New Jersey and California that they have seen the same images, and one of them even saw CVS using a the photo of me sans-the other folks in the picture in promotional materials inside the store.  If you drive by a CVS in the course of your day, do me a favor and slow down a bit and look to see if this photo is on the outside of your location.  If you need to run an errand there, keep your eye out inside the store as well.  If you see my face, please let me know, and if possible, take a picture.


  1. We don’t have a CVS, but if I do find myself near one (in other towns/cities) I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open.

    That really sucks and is seriously wrong.

  2. Hopefully once you contact them they will remedy the situation by reimbursing you for the use of your image and probably actual photo.

    You would think a company with those resources at hand could track you down and ask permission.

  3. Personally, I suggest you contact an attorney to go after CVS corporate for the unauthorized use of your likeness. Then keep looking for the original picture and either you or your mom, if she took it, can pursue the copyright infringement claim as well.

    If you’ve never signed up for a modeling service or otherwise signed away rights to your image, it seems pretty cut and dried to me.

  4. Kara: Thanks

    KMK: Yes. I’m really hoping that they will want to avoid a court case when it is so cut and dry like this, and that we will be able to settle out of court. I don’t want a million dollars or anything ridiculous, but I do want a reasonable amount of money for being modeled in a national ad campaign. In this economy, this is not something I can just let slide.

    Trebor: Yeah, I’m sort of in that process, or rather, my parents are. The complication is that I live in Korea (though only for another month or so), so pursuing this purely on my own would be very difficult. Unfortunately, I worry about the fact that my mother has a tendency, due to low self esteem, to not be aggressive with these sort of things, and instead to be rather yielding. That is definitely not the tack that needs to be taken here. And yes, since this is a pretty cut and dried case (since no matter who took the photo, I never signed a model release for this purpose), I am hoping that we will be able to settle the matter out of court.

  5. As annoying as it must be, I think it’s also hilarious. (Not laughing at you, I’d think so if it were me, too.) The Internet has changed everything: both their ability to steal, and your ability to call them on it. Since the latter exists, that totally rocks.

    Someday, you’ll laugh your ass off about how your image appeared all over the US in ads. (There are, after all, people whose image would NEVER be stolen for this purpose!)

    I agree, though, that they bloody well should have to pay for the use of your likeness for commercial purposes (ie. for having turned you into a mopdel for their company) — and they should have to pay for having done so without even *seeking* permission. They also ripped off whoever took the picture. And a precedent does need to get set, if there isn’t one by now.

    (Ha, Korea’s another story. I honestly wonder if anyone’s paid for the use of Audrey Hepburn’s image in all those phone ads.)

    (By the way, I got your response to my earlier comment, but was too swamped then and it’s so out of date there’s little point in responding, except to say I hear you, etc, etc.)

  6. Hi, I was just reading CVS photo’s license agreement when I came up upon this alarming clause:

    “You grant to the Web Site and its service providers and licensees a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, unrestricted, world-wide right and license to access, use, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, display, perform, communicate to the public, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, and otherwise use such Materials (in whole or in part) in connection with the Service, using any form, media or technology now known or later developed, without providing compensation to you or any other person, without any liability to you or any other person, and free from any obligation of confidence or other duties on the part of the Web Site or its service providers; ”

    The “Materials” in questions refer to “user IDs, email addresses, passwords, comments, images, graphics, text and data and any other forms of information submitted to the Company, regardless of whether such information is posted publicly or with password protection.”

    The license agreement can be read in whole at

    Basically when you sign up for CVS online photo printing services, you are granting CVS the permission to use and profit from your photos without notifying you let alone paying you. Be aware of these sneaky clauses of online printing services, because they give these companies just about unlimited access to your photographs as if the photographs are theirs!

    And the sad thing is CVS is hardly alone in burying this absurd clause deep in their user agreement (and hoping users will blindly click “I agree” just to avoid the hassle of reading the lengthy legalese document), if you web search that specific clause, other websites) also employ the same clause word for word.

    I’m sure you are not the only whom they have stolen from, others are either clueless or too apathetic to care, if you are really fed up with their unlawful conduct, perhaps you can start a website publishing your woes for all to see, and it shall serve as a warning to present and future artless customers of such online printing services (that steal customers’ photographs)

  7. did you ever write a followup on how they didn’t steal your face?

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