"Instead of responding to their legal threat by suppressing our criticism of their marketing images, we're gonna mock them," Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "So, to Ralph Lauren, GreenbergTraurig, and PRL Holdings, Inc: sue and be damned. Copyright law doesn't give you the right to threaten your critics for pointing out the problems with your offerings. You should know better. And every time you threaten to sue us over stuff like this, we will:
a) Reproduce the original criticism, making damned sure that all our readers get a good, long look at it, and;
b) Publish your spurious legal threat along with copious mockery, so that it becomes highly ranked in search engines where other people you threaten can find it and take heart; and
c) Offer nourishing soup and sandwiches to your models."
In a statement, Ralph Lauren acknowledged that the image had been doctored.
"For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately," according to the statement.
In August, the blogosphere went wild over an image in a Microsoft Corp. ad that had been edited to change a man's race from black to white.
In a photo featured on the company's U.S. Web site, three colleagues -- one white, one black and one Asian -- sit around a conference room table. But in the same photo on the company's Polish site, the face of the black man had been replaced with the face of a white man.
The gaffe sparked quite the discussion online, as bloggers and commenters wondered if the change was racially motivated, the result of poor judgement or both. Some people suspected that the computer technology giant changed the Polish image so that it matched the country's own racial composition.
It even inspired the popular tech blog TechCrunch to launch a contest to see who can manipulate the funniest head onto the Microsoft ad.
"So get Photoshop fired up and make your funniest (and yet not in any way offensive) version of the Polish Microsoft head replacement. No rules. Replace all the heads if you want to. Add costumes and props. And text bubbles," it said on its site.
The winner gets a Bing (Microsoft's search engine) T-shirt in the mail.
Ultimately, the affair elicited an apology from Microsoft, which said in a statement, "We are looking into the details of this situation. We apologize and have replaced the image with the original photograph."
But race-altering edits have backfired for other brands too. In 2000, the University of Wisconsin admitted that it had doctored the cover of a brochure to make the school look more diverse.
Into an image of mostly white students cheering at a football game, it digitally inserted the face of a black student, Diallo Shabazz. Jet magazine quoted Shabazz as saying that he had never attended a football game at the university.
According to the National Press Photographers Association, the university reprinted all 106,000 copies of the brochure after it was caught.