Local News

Slain UNC student's photo used on billboard in India

Posted March 21, 2012 6:12 p.m. EDT
Updated March 22, 2012 11:34 a.m. EDT

— University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officials said Wednesday that they are working to get a photo of former student body president Eve Carson removed from a billboard in India for a company claiming to provide study opportunities abroad.

Carson was kidnapped from her off-campus apartment three years ago, forced to withdraw money from her bank account and then shot and left to die on a Chapel Hill street Two men are now serving life sentences for her murder.

Jubeerich Consultancy uses her image in at least one billboard advertisement in India. The company couldn't be reached for comment, but The Hindu news website in India reported Thursday that the company expressed “deep agony and pain” over the incident and said the images would be removed by the end of the day.

“It was not intentional,” Jubeerich director Justy Mathew, told the website.

UNC officials said the university has a copyright on the photo. It's unclear how Jubeerich obtained the photo, but university officials said neither they nor Carson's family gave the company permission to use it.

Students said they found the billboard disrespectful.

"I think it's probably horrible to have something so meaningful reduced to an advertisement," sophomore Zach Gaver said.

"I think this is really alarming. I think it's unsettling that somebody's photo has been used in this way," junior Erika Nunez said.

Duke University law professor Jennifer Jenkins said the U.S. provides protections for both copyright and privacy, but the rules aren't as clear cut in international cases. Still, she said the use of Carson's image is more a matter of decency.

"It isn't about publicity rights, and it isn't about copyright. It's just about common decency," said Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke.

Many countries, including India, have treaties enforcing copyright, but not all countries recognize the rights of the people in pictures, especially those who are dead, said Adrienne Meddock, assistant dean of the North Carolina Central University School of Law.

In 2008, UNC forced another company to remove the same picture of Carson from a website to promote its services to college students.

Jenkins said people need to be careful of what images they post online, although the image of Carson on the billboard was widely circulated in the media after her death.

"I'm sure in many cases these uses are undiscovered. Someone actually has to see it and notify the person," she said.