Along the roads of southern India, the billboards are plentiful, promoting movies, mobile phones, fine silks, Chinese restaurants and Communist Party politicians seeking re-election.
There, along National Highway 49, not far from the mountain town of Munnar, were at least two billboards with an image that would be chilling to most North Carolinians: the smiling visage of Eve Carson, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student body president who was killed in 2008.
The billboards advertise Jubeerich Consultancy, a company that appears to offer overseas study opportunities and job placement, mainly in Western countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. The firm's website features a photograph of 20 attractive, mostly blond, young people, and bills Jubeerich as "The Trusted Name Since 1999."
But the company's advertisement does not exude integrity to those who knew Carson, who was abducted, robbed and shot to death in Chapel Hill four years ago this month. The case made international headlines, and two men were later convicted of her murder. "I'm surprised and disappointed that somebody is using Eve's image in this way," said Chuck Lovelace, executive director of the Morehead-Cain Scholars Program. "It certainly does not honor Eve or her family, and they would not want it to be used in this way."
Carson was a Morehead-Cain Scholar at UNC-CH, where she excelled in academics and leadership. Lovelace and other staff members of the prestigious scholarship program have been close to Carson's family.
It's unclear how many billboards in India -- or anywhere else -- show the Carson photograph. The same image has appeared in many news accounts since 2008.
By Thursday, Jubeerich had apologized for the signs and pledged to take them down, according to a report in The Hindu newspaper.
Justy Mathew, a director with Jubeerich, told the Indian newspaper that he would have the Carson image removed by 5 p.m. Thursday. "It was not intentional," Mathew told The Hindu.
Mathew said the advertising company that had the contract for the billboards may have lifted Carson's image from the Internet. The photograph was widely published and broadcast in media reports of Carson's death.
Laws are complex and varied on the commercial use of a person's name or likeness, according to "Right of Publicity 2011," an online guide to international law and regulation published by Law Business Research Ltd. in the United Kingdom.
The issue is difficult to navigate in the Internet age, where advertising is viral and often embedded in social media.
"However, despite these global challenges, and the potential for an individual in country A to have his or her identity misappropriated halfway around the world in country B, no unifying body of international law exists on the right of publicity," writes the guide's editor, Jonathan D. Reichman. "Unlike other intellectual property fields such as copyright, trademark and patent law, there are no international treaties or conventions."