Why James Deakin is About to Press Charges Against A Local Food Establishment

Fil-Brit influencer James Deakin will reportedly file charges against a food establishment that used his photo without his consent. Here’s what happened. 

Businesses should aim to have great customer testimonials—especially since that helps a lot in building credibility and establishing trust in a brand. This is because it works as a way to show potential customers the positive experience that comes with what they offer.

Positive testimonials can come from anyone, but it comes with a price for people who have a massive following on their accounts—given that it can be treated as an endorsement. This practice is more commonly known as influencer-generated content (IGC), or simply having influencers promote a certain brand. It even counts as user-generated content (UGC), which is popular nowadays in social media

However, it is important to note that consent from the influencer or owner is key for any type of content—especially if it’s not yours, to begin with. This is why using an influencer’s content without permission or even using parts of someone’s content to promote your brand is a wrong practice that is frowned upon and can even get your brand canceled.

Such is the case with Filipino-British TV personality James Deakin, who found out that his face was being used to promote a local food establishment. In this case study, we delve into what happened and what can be learned from this.

What Happened?

On his Facebook page, James Deakin posted, “Imagine a fast-food company blatantly stealing your image and passing it off as an ad, even going as far as using the image on their illuminated menu board since 2019. And once their attention is called, sila pang galit. (and they’re the ones getting upset) Wow. Could have been easily resolved with [an] apology sana. Time to lawyer up.” 

Under the comments section, Deakin added that as much as he would love to call out the establishment and name them, his lawyer suggested otherwise. Moreover, the influencer just commented on his own post, saying that when this is all over, he will “raffle off food from the restaurant’s competitors.”

In an interview with a local publication, Deakin shared what happened—the business took old footage of him on CNN’s Drive and repurposed it as advertising material. According to him, the reason why he happened to be there was that he stopped by their stand when he was doing a food tour in Manila with his scooter.

Apparently, the restaurant posted the influencer’s photo in November 2019, but Deakin only learned about it this July 2023—when his friend congratulated him for having another endorsement deal. 

The post got over 500,000 views, 2,400 likes, 239 shares, and 332 comments before it was taken down. Asked about the consent he gave for that post, Deakin explained, “They did not ask me permission much less compensate me, and if they try to use the angle that they were just sharing the content, they should have shown context. As it appears, it is a paid endorsement that they have profited from for the last four years.”

In his interview, Deakin also shared that “They only reached out to get on a call after I posted. Their last message was: ‘We took it down na, what more do you want?’” To which he privately replied: “At least you should not be arrogant and apologize like a decent human being.”

What Does It Mean, Legally? 

According to the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL), “A person who is found guilty of committing copyright infringement may be penalized with imprisonment from one to nine years plus a fine ranging from PHP 50,000 to PHP 1.5 million, depending on the number of offenses committed.”

“Additionally, the infringing work may be taken down if it was posted online or pulled from the market to prevent its further circulation,” it further added. 

What does this mean? Based on the law, Deakin is technically not the only one who can press charges for copyright infringement, given that the owner of the clip can do the same.

This is why consent in the form of securing permission is important, especially when producing influencer or user-generated content. After all, some influencers may require compensation for their time and effort, while others may not even want other brands to use their material in the first place.

And in its barest essence, it is important to recognize that people maintain ownership of their content—even when created for another brand, unless stated otherwise.

What’s more, securing permission is important because aside from being publicly called out on social media by said influencers—which can lower your brand’s credibility—it also protects businesses from facing legal charges of copyright infringement. This is also important for influencers as it reassures them that their identity will not be used to spread misinformation or that any of the published content they worked hard on will get proper acknowledgment.