B.J. Novak's Face Is on Random Products All Over the World

Article Highlights:

  • Why B.J. Novak’s face is on a bunch of random products.
  • The legal actions The Office actor/writer can take.
  • B.J. Novak isn’t the only actor to have a stock photo haunt him.

Actor and writer B.J. Novak‘s face is all over the world. But not entirely for his acting and writing. Novak’s mug can be seen on such items as face paint in Uruguay, electric razors in China, ponchos in Europe, and Calvin Klein’s Encounter cologne. Why? The Office actor believes his photo was uploaded to a website where it became a part of the public domain.

What B.J. Novak has to say about his accidental modeling career

On Monday, Oct. 25, Novak took to Instagram to post five photos of his face on random products. He saved them to a story called “Modeling.” He also wrote: “Years ago, someone mistakenly put an image of me on a public domain site, and now apparently I am on products all around the world, but I am too amused to do anything about it.” No mention of who might have taken the photo.

But Monday wasn’t the first time The Office actor learned of his surprise modeling career. In 2014, he posted photos of his face gracing boxes of Swedish cologne boxes to Instagram. “I am #blessed to announce the launch of my fragrance, available now in a Swedish department store,” he wrote.

Legal options

According to The New York Times, the rights of the photo probably belong to the photographer, not Novak, unless they have been transferred. Marc Misthal, a principal lawyer at Gottlieb, Rackman & Reisman, a New York law firm, spoke to the publication and said that, in the United States, Novak has several legal routes he can take, if that’s something he wants to do.

For one, a lawyer could send cease-and-desist letters to the companies using his photo. Or, he could sue the companies, according to Misthal, who specializes in copyright and trademark law. The lawyer went on to say he thinks Novak is more likely to pursue a case against the companies that made money off of his photo than whoever uploaded the photo to the public domain website.

“It’s really the fact that his face or likeness is associated with a particular product, because they’re using his likeness in order to attract customers and basically make money,” Misthal told The Times.

However, by the looks of Novak’s Instagram post, it doesn’t look like he’ll be pursuing any legal action anytime soon.

B.J. Novak isn’t the only actor whose face has appeared on random items

This isn’t the first time an actor’s face has appeared on random items after they made it big. Actor Simu Liu, best known for his role in the 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, has appeared on things like textbooks, Y.M.C.A. fliers, and ads for public transportation. He said he was paid $120 to shoot the stock photos in 2014.

“That stock photo shoot always finds a way to come back and haunt me LOL,” he said on Twitter in 2018.

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