The actor Simu Liu has often joked about the time he modeled for stock images in 2014. He said he was paid $120 to shoot the photos, which have since appeared in everything from textbooks to Y.M.C.A. fliers. “That stock photo shoot always finds a way to come back and haunt me LOL,” Mr. Liu said on Twitter in 2018.
Most likely, Mr. Novak has not made any money off the use of his picture.
But Marc Misthal, a principal lawyer 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 — if he wants to.
His lawyer can send cease-and-desist letters to the companies that used his image, or he can escalate the matter by suing the companies, said Mr. Misthal, who specializes in copyright and trademark law.
However, Mr. Misthal said he thinks the actor is more likely to pursue a case against the companies who made money off the photo than the person who uploaded the picture to a public domain website.
“It’s really the fact that his face or likeness is associated with a particular product, because they’re using his likeness in order to attract customers and basically 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 am too amused to do anything about it,” he wrote.
He has known about his double life as a “model” since at least 2014, when he posted a photo on Instagram of his picture on cologne boxes, showing five sets of his eyeballs staring down Swedish shoppers.