He Was Mad His Photo Was Used To Show All Hipsters Look Alike, But It Wasn't Him

An angry reader threatened to sue the MIT Technology Review for using what he thought was his image in an article about "the hipster effect.”
The Getty stock photo that caused the conflict.
The Getty stock photo that caused the conflict.
PeopleImages via Getty Images

It seems that hipsters don’t always love irony.

A man threatened to sue a technology publication for using his image in a story about how all hipsters look alike, only to find out that the picture was of a different person.

Last week, MIT Technology Review posted an article titled “The Hipster Effect: Why Anti-conformists Always End Up Looking The Same,” which discussed a Brandeis University study about “the hipster effect,” or how nonconformists often end up conforming to counterculture conventions.

The article featured an image created from a Getty stock photo of a bearded man in a flannel shirt and beanie. The Review used the image, duplicated it several times and added a purple and orange hue to it to illustrate the point of the article.

However, an unidentified man saw the image, thought it was a picture of him and sent the publication a pretty heated email, which, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., read:

“Your lack of basic journalistic ethics in both the manner in which you ‘reported’ this uncredited nonsense, and the slanderous, unnecessary use of my picture without permission demands a response, and I am, of course, pursuing legal action.”

Thing was, it wasn’t him.

“He accused us of slandering him, presumably by implying he was a hipster, and of using the pic without his permission,” Gideon Lichfield, the Review’s editor-in-chief, explained Tuesday on Twitter.

He also mentioned, “Calling someone a hipster isn’t slander, no matter how much they may hate it,” but admitted that his publication wouldn’t use an unlicensed image and looked into the matter, although they got the image from a reputable agency.

“So I forwarded the email to our art department,” Lichfield told CBC. “… And their response was, ‘Yes, we have the right license. But, you know, we can take the picture down anyway if he’s annoyed.’ But our creative director said no, this was an image that we used with permission and perfectly in accordance with our rights. We shouldn’t take it down just because somebody doesn’t like it.”

So the publication got in touch with Getty. The agency checked the model release and gave the Review some pretty interesting information.

“They have a team that deals with legal complaints and they went into their archive and checked the details and they came back to us and they said, ‘Actually the model in this photo does not have the same name as the person who wrote to you,’” Lichfield explained to CDC.

He added:

“They wrote to him and ... said, ‘We don’t think this is you.’ And he replied, ‘Oh, I guess you’re right, it’s not.’

Needless to say, people loved how Lichfield called the man out.

Some Twitter users had jokes of their own.

But, all in all, Lichfield seems pretty happy the fiasco was resolved.

“All of which just proves the story we ran: Hipsters look so much alike that they can’t even tell themselves apart from each other,” Lichfield tweeted.

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