US family's Christmas snap turns up in Czech ad

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The Independent Online

When Danielle Smith and her family posed for their Christmas card photo last year, they knew they'd share it with family and friends.

But the Missouri family wasn't expecting it to show up in the Czech Republic, splashed across a huge storefront advertisement.

Smith, 36, who lives in the St. Louis suburb of O'Fallon, said yesterday that she posted the photo on her blog and some online social networking sites. It featured Smith, her husband Jeff and their two children.

About 10 days ago, a college friend was driving through Prague when he spotted their huge smiling faces in the window of a store specialising in European food. He snapped a few pictures and sent them to a flabbergasted Smith.

"It's a life-size picture in a grocery store window in Prague - my Christmas card photo!" she said.

Mario Bertuccio, who owns the Grazie store in Prague, said the photo was from the internet.

Details were sparse, but he said he thought it was computer-generated. When told it was a real photo - of a real family - he said he started taking steps to remove it.

"We'll be happy to write an email with our apology," said Bertuccio.

The Smiths and photographer Gina Kelly hadn't authorised anyone to use the pictures. Kelly said she has asked a professional photographers' organisation to help figure out how her image wound up in Prague.

Smith has had 180,000 hits on her website since she recently posted the story about the well-travelled snapshot.

She said the photo wasn't used in an unseemly manner, only to tell potential shoppers about the store's delivery service.

Smith said next time she posts a photo on the internet, she's going to lower the resolution or add an electronic watermark to make it hard to reproduce.

"This story doesn't frighten me, but the potential frightens me," Smith said.