Niagara Fall’s Mayor Jim Diodati says he has nothing against online dating sites but he would like to see one singles site stop using his photo in their ads.
The Mayor says his face still brandishes a Facebook ad for an online dating service called MatureDating.com.
“It’s awkward,” Diodati told Global News. “I started getting screenshots from people of my picture used on a mature dating web site.”
The mayor says it’s actually not the first time his image has been used over the last few years, and up ’til now, he hasn’t really thought much of it.
“For the most part, it’s become a real humorous situation,” said the mayor. “Most of my friends are getting a real kick out of it.”
However, this past weekend Diodati said he received a message forwarded from someone in Maryland which revealed a personal account on Plenty of Fish using pics of him, his kids and his dogs.
“It got a little weird and I thought, ‘no, you know what, that’s crossing the line,’” said Diodati, “To use my image, I think that’s weird. But to use my kids? That’s kind of creepy.”
The mayor says that episode led him to wonder just how deep this problem was, and that’s when he took to social media to investigate for himself.
“That’s when all the excitement began because I didn’t realize how aggressive some of these marketing campaigns were for some of these web sites,” Diodati said.
“I was getting more and more people sending me notices. And that’s when I went to social media just to say, ‘listen, it’s not me. I didn’t authorize this.’”
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati says his picture popped for a mature dating add earlier this week. He says they used his image without permission.Diodati did reach out to administrators with Plenty of Fish who were able to track down the illicit account and shut it down.
However, he hasn’t had the same luck with MatureDating.com
“We haven’t heard back from them. So I don’t know what the deal is. And I mean, I’m not losing too much sleep over it. I just don’t want my kids involved,” Diodati said.
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Marvin Ryder, Associate professor of Marketing at DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University, says reaching out directly to a company to get one’s picture removed from a website or a social media post tends to work, since the user will want to avoid being banned by a service provider.
“So, Jim is absolutely right to complain to MatureDating.com and say, ‘hey, I don’t want my photo used there,’” said Ryder. “Smart companies, the minute they get any complaint at all, react because there are a million other photos where those came from.”
It is an option that is significantly easier than trying to legally remove a photo from a website or social media post, according to a Hamilton copyright lawyer.
Michele Ballagh, Lawyer & Trademark Agent with Ballagh & Edward LLP, says the copyright of a photograph can only be enforced by the owner of the copyright – which may or may not be Diodati himself.
“The copyright owner may be the photographer or it may be the city itself, since I understand that the photo is an official photograph created for his role as mayor,” said Ballagh.
“The mayor would have to seek an assignment of copyright in the photo if he wanted to try to claim copyright infringement for unauthorized use of the photo. Similarly, moral rights in the photo (which is a separate right granted under the Copyright Act) can only be enforced by the author of the photo (ie. the photographer) who was probably not the mayor.”
Ballagh goes on to say it gets even more “challenging” if a Canadian court tries to issue orders addressing copyright infringement to an entity in a foreign country.
“Enforcing compliance with a Canadian court order is challenging when the servers hosting the web site data are located in other countries. In these situations, you may have to go to the country where the servers are located and ask the courts in that country to enforce the order.”
“In some countries that is easier than others. Of course, this can also turn into a game of “whack-a-mole” as the infringing party can easily move the data to servers located in other countries.”
Global News has reached out to MatureDating.com for comment. So far, the service has not replied to our inquiries.
Diodati says he has learned a lesson throughout the ordeal and has a warning for anyone who has put photos online.
“You know, beware, because once you put your image out there, who knows what can happen to it?” Diodati said.
“Maybe you think it’s going to be contained. It’s not. Everything’s up for grabs when you send your images of your kids, your family, your status, whatever.”
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