Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

80 year-old man Sues Ad Firm for False Endorsement | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The STC Ad

The STC Ad

The STC Ad

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat-A Saudi citizen is accusing the Saudi Telecommunication Company of using his likeness in an advertisement to promote mobile phone services without his consent. He is demanding financial and moral compensation for the harm incurred by the ad and is seeking a public apology.

Eighty year-old Saad al Qahtani revealed he was unaware his picture was being featured in an advertisement for a telecom company. As a result, he added, he filed a lawsuit with the Ministry of Culture and Information. He recalled how “representatives form the advertising agency asked me to be their guide on a tour of the Fifa Mountains, in Southern Saudi Arabia, because the area is rocky and difficult to climb.

My son even carried some equipment in his car.” He said he was asked, “to stay for the duration of the trip”. At the end, before leaving the area, a photographer took al al Qahtani’s picture, but it was “only a souvenir.”

He agreed despite his tribe believing photography is a shameful practice, “especially for an old man like me.” After returning home, he added, “One of the men in my village paid me a visit, holding a newspaper in his hand. He showed me an enlarged picture of myself in an advertisement for the Saudi Telecommunication Company! The picture featured in a number of papers as well as on satellite television channels.” The ordeal, al Qahtani said, had left him feeling low and depressed.

For his part, Ahmed al Miman, an executive at Leo Burnett advertising agency, categorically denied al Qahtani’s version of events. He confirmed that both al Qahtani and his son had prior knowledge of the company’s intentions. He said, “Saad agreed to having his picture taken for 1300 $ US (or 5000 Saudi Riyals) and an expenses paid trip.” He remembered the elderly man returning to his village pleased with the payment.

Asharq Al Awsat met with lawyer Saad al Atiyya, who runs his own practice, to discuss the case. He confirmed that it is within his client, al Qahtani’s rights to sue for damage through the Ministry of Culture, as it is the relevant authority. He based his claim on Article 12 of the Kingdom’s authorship law that states that a photographer doesn’t have the right to publish, display, or distribute the original picture, or a copy, without the consent of the people it features. He also referred to the fourth paragraph of Article 9 of publishing law.

Husam Abu Sabra, who produced the disputed advertisement, told Asharq Al Awsat that al Qahtani and his son agreed to have their photographs taken. He believes the elderly man changed his mind after returning to his village; when he realized how successful the campaign was going to be, al Qahtani demanded more money. “He thinks he is worth over 50 thousand US$, as much as the famous singer Nancy Ajram is paid!” Abu Sabra noted that all models receive a flat fee between 150 and 800 US $ per day.

Saudi Telecom would not comment on the ongoing legal case with Saad Dhafir al Qahtani, the Manager in its advertising division, saying the conflict was between the agency and its client.