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In recent years, any Swede who bought a bottle of Calvin Klein Encounter cologne was probably greeted by the piercing gaze of an American actor.

Ditto for anyone who has bought certain brands of makeup in Uruguay, electric razors in China, or knee-length ponchos in Europe.

Something in the man’s familiar face has enchanted product makers around the world, who have chosen his stock image from millions to appear on their packaging. But the man in the photo, BJ Novak, a 42-year-old actor best known for his role in “The Office,” didn’t choose to be the face of the perfume, face paint or ponchos.

Someone else chose his photo and then uploaded it “years ago” to a website where it became part of the public domain, he said on Instagram on Monday.

Mr. Novak could not be reached for further comments through his representatives. He is best known for his “The Office” character, Ryan Howard, who went from being a badly abused interim worker to being a corporate executive for the fictitious Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Off-camera, Mr. Novak was a screenwriter, director and executive producer for the hit American sitcom, based on the British series of the same name. He has embarked on other projects in film and television, including “The Premise”, the anthology series FX on Hulu.

Mr. Novak seemed to take his archival photo fame with good humor. On Instagram, where he posted photos of himself on various product packaging, he saved the images in a collection he called “modeling.”

Mr. Novak is in good company, as photos like “Hide The Pain Harold” and “Distracted Boyfriend” have been used and reused around the world.

Actor Simu Liu has often joked around the time he modeled for stock images in 2014. He said he was paid $ 120 to take the photos, which have since appeared in everything from manuals To YMCA leaflets. “This archival photo shoot always finds a way to come back and haunt me LOL,” Mr. Liu said on Twitter in 2018.

Most likely, Mr. Novak did not make any money from his photo, as public domain images are free to use. But Marc Misthal, senior attorney at Gottlieb, Rackman & Reisman, a New York law firm, said that at least in the United States, Mr Novak has a number of possible legal options to pursue – s’ he wishes it.

His lawyer can send cease and desist letters to companies that have used his image, or he can escalate the case by suing the companies, said copyright and trademark specialist Mr Misthal.

However, Mr Misthal said he believed the actor was more likely to sue companies that made money from the photo than the person who uploaded the photo to a public domain website.

“It’s really the fact that their face or their image is associated with a particular product, because they use their image to attract customers and make money,” Mr. Misthal said.

But, if Mr Novak’s Instagram post on Monday is any indication, he has no plans to take legal action against anyone.

“I’m too amused to do anything about it,” he wrote.

He’s known his double life as a “model” since at least 2014, when he posted a photo on Instagram of his photo on cans of cologne, showing five pairs of his eyeballs staring at Swedish shoppers.

He joked at the time: “I am blessed to announce the launch of my perfume, available now at a Swedish department store.”

nytimes Gt

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