Friday, February 01, 2008

The Onion makes someone cry

Ever wonder where satirical giant The Onion gets its photos? One firefighter in Canada found out: his own backyard, so to speak. CBC News reported on how Captain Rudy Lindia discovered a photo of himself being used as accompaniment for a fictional obituary in a 2006 article. Lindia was appalled, of course, as was his octogenarian mother. He wants an apology. The Onion, according to the Ottowa Citizen, did apologize via a spokesman, saying - with characteristic elegance and a trademark gift for the mot juste - that they felt "crummy", although they insisted that they simply used a stock image provided by a service. When Lindia's picture was taken, he was under the impression (mistakenly) that it was for the City of Ottowa. Instead, his image resides eternally in the files of a stock image dealer.

The Onion, being a legitimate business and whatnot, subscribes to a paying image bank for purported licensed images, but even that didn't protect them in this case. As for the rest of us - nearly every humor site borrows liberally from the endless and very topical bounty to be found on Google image search. In general, there are few repercussions, thanks to the sheer size of the web; the odds that someone will come across an unlabeled (and frequently modified) picture of him- or herself is negligible. But as Lindia's case shows, it's not impossible, and where The Onion seems to have some legal standing, at least, that's not the case for most. Take heed.

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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.