Mom outraged after daughter's photo used in ad for genetic screening
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, June 17, 2015 9:56PM EDT
A Langley, B.C, mother is furious and heartbroken after a photo of her daughter, who has Down syndrome, was used by a biomedical company to advertise prenatal genetic screening.
Christie Hoos shared an image of her young daughter Becca on her blog in March. In the post, entitled No Single Story, Hoos outlined the challenges and joys of being the parent of a child with Down syndrome.
"It's very her in a gentle moment," Hoo told CTV News
"My daughter is beautiful and she deserves to be celebrated.”
But last week, Hoos and husband Glen were alerted by a fellow parent that their treasured photo was being used on a poster in Spain by the Swiss-based genetics laboratory Genoma, to promote a prenatal test for Down Syndrome.
"We could not believe what we found. It was infuriating," said Hoos.
"They put our daughter's face on a banner that was the size of a building. That's my baby. That's my little girl and she is beautiful and precious. How dare they."
Hoos also found out about the poster as her daughter was being treated for cancer -- she's currently in her eighth month of chemotherapy.
In a blog post, Hoos wrote that she felt "guilty" at first for posting the image, but then realized that she was not at fault because the company used it without her consent.
"When I saw with my own eyes her sweet face on that ugly banner, it broke my heart. While my girl courageously fights for her life, this company questions whether she has a life worth living," Hoos wrote.
"They insulted and abused my innocent child in their pursuit of profit. They broke faith with common human decency," she added.
Hoos proceeded to reach out to Genoma to ask them to remove Becca's picture.
And that's when the family discovered the image had been uploaded to a stock photo website and distributed for free.
"We downloaded this photo from an image bank website offering it in an apparent legal way," Frederic Amar, president and CEO of Genoma, wrote in a statement on the company's website.
Genoma says they have stopped using the picture and are initiating legal action against the stock photo site.
The family says they have also heard from at least two other parents who say their children's pictures are on the same site.
Hoos is determined not to allow the incident to upset her or her daughter, and does not plan on taking down any photos from her blog. Instead, her main focus is now on Becca's health.
"I'm not going to punish myself for something someone else did, and I'm not going to punish her for it either and make her hide away," said Hoos.
Richard Rosenberg, a computer science professor at the University of British Columbia, says that while users often have little control of their property once a photo hits the web, the Hoos may have a case.
"There are more and more lawyers who have now become familiar with the Internet and have some experience on it. They might see a case to be made that's not only being badly used but it's harmful," said Rosenberg.
With a report from CTV’s Maria Weisgarber