When Your Face Lands in the Public Domain

No one knows who took this picture of B.J. Novak, the actor best known for his role as Ryan Howard on “The Office,” But at some point, years ago, someone uploaded this photo to a website where it became part of the public domain. That usually means the image is free to use without permission, as the rights to a photo generally belong to the person who took the picture, not the subject, unless they have been transferred in some way.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Novak, his portrait has been chosen by designers from around the world and placed on all types of packaging, from bottles of Calvin Klein’s Encounter cologne in Sweden and face paint in Uruguay to electric razors in China and knee-length ponchos in Spain. What is it about this man’s face that stood out over the millions of other stock photo portraits available to the designers? That’s anyone’s guess.

BJ seems to be taking it in stride. In a series of Instagram stories he labels “Modeling,” he shared all the products on which he has spotted his photo, and he suspects there may be many more. Does he have plans to address this image theft? “I am too amused to do anything about it,” he said on his post.

Taylor Design Blog

By Dan

President / Creative Director