Saudi student takes Ofo, Baidu to court for using his portrait

A student from Saudi Arabia has filed a lawsuit against Chinese bike-sharing operator Ofo and internet company Baidu saying they used his image without permission, Beijing’s Haidian District People’s Court said on Monday.

The student said Beijing Bikelock Technology Co, which runs Ofo, used his portrait without permission in advertisements and on its page on Baidu’s online encyclopedia Baike. He has filed a lawsuit against the two companies, the court said.

The student demanded the two companies delete the photos immediately and issue an open letter of apology in a national newspaper. The student, who arrived in China to study in 2011, also asked for compensation of 300,000 yuan ($46,800), the court said.

Ofo said in a statement on Monday it had not been notified of the case by the court. The student said a friend playing an online game had seen an Ofo advertisement pop up that used his portrait to promote its shared bikes and had told him about it.

The student said he searched online and found his portrait on Ofo’s page on Baike, as well as on Beijing Bikelock Technology’s website, which used his foreign identity to publicize and promote its overseas strategy and highlight its global nature.

The student said his friends thought he had earned money from doing a commercial for Ofo, but he did not know about it. International students from Saudi Arabia are not allowed to work and portraits of Saudi Arabian students used in commercials need to be approved by the country’s embassy. If not, he said, he could be penalized.

The student said Beijing Bikelock Technology used his portrait without his consent for commercial interests, and Baidu did not fulfill its obligation to review the content on Baike.

Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Communication Law Research Center at China University of Political Science and Law, said that according to the Civil Law, it is a clear case of infringement of image rights if Ofo used the student’s portrait for commercial purposes, and Ofo would need to pay compensation to the student and face other penalties. Baidu Baike, as an information service provider, would not face any penalties if it deleted the photo as the student demanded, Zhu added.