RIM using Twitter avatars in promos?

Research In Motion (RIM) appears to have been caught using images of real users from Twitter without their permission in a video promoting the future of the mobile workforce.

Research In Motion (RIM) appears to have been caught using images of real users from Twitter without their permission in a video promoting the future of the mobile workforce.

BlackBerry video

The video where Mark Colvin appears third from the top as fictional employee Chris Bulino
(Screenshot by Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

The video is reportedly produced by RIM and were uncovered by PocketNow and republished on TechCrunch. They show a world where the workforce has the latest gadgets to be always mobile and more productive using BlackBerry products.

The problem, however, comes after 12 seconds into the vision of the future when the image of Mark Colvin, a prominent ABC radio journalist, appears as one of the "employees" in the fictional workflow.

The image is from Colvin's Twitter account. Twitter's terms of service state that while the original uploader of the image retains rights to it at all times, Twitter has a near unlimited licence to republish that photo as it chooses.

Representatives from BlackBerry parent, RIM told ZDNet Australia that they are investigating the matter and have been in contact with Colvin to that effect.

Colvin, meanwhile, has expressed his distaste at being featured in the campaign.

"Since I work for a non-commercial organisation, I am not at all happy about having my image used in a BlackBerry ad," Colvin tweeted.

Colvin told ZDNet Australia that while some might not think it's a big deal, he most certainly does.

"[While] it's a brief appearance in a commercial, I don't think it's reasonable. They've taken my image, put another name on it and are hoping in some ways to profit from that," he said.

He was at pains to stress, however, that the video may not have been produced in-house by BlackBerry.

"I don't have any proof it is endorsed by BlackBerry so I'm not accusing them directly. For all I know it's some enterprising person who's trying to make an ad on-spec for BlackBerry."

He said that the last thing he wants his image to become is an internet meme.

"I believe it's quite prevalent on the internet, people's images being stolen ... I'm really keen that that doesn't happen to my avatar!

"It's not because I work for a non-commercial company, it's that any serious journalist wants to avoid the possibility that they can be bought by an organisation," Colvin told ZDNet Australia.

At the very end of the video, RIM's copyright notices appear, along with a legal disclaimer that states:

All characters, brands, third-party intellectual property and technology appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, brands, third-party intellectual property or technology is purely coincidental.

But, of course, that has now been revealed to not be the case.

In a statement, RIM blamed an external agency for accidentally publishing the videos without the company's approval:

Last week two videos entitled 'Enterprising Minds' were posted inadvertently to a public website by a RIM agency. Whilst the videos were commissioned by RIM, neither the videos nor the choice of images used within the videos had been finalised or approved by RIM for external use. The videos were posted to the web by the agency without the knowledge or consent of RIM. Immediately after being alerted by RIM, the agency took steps to remove the videos from public forums where the videos were subsequently posted without the knowledge or consent of the agency or RIM.

Updated at 2:29pm, 1 November 2011: added comment from RIM

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