Facebook Celebrity Doppelganger Week: What you need to know

The online celebrity look-alike fad has people swapping their profile pictures for shots of actors, musicians, athletes – even First Lady Laura Bush. How'd it start, how can you join in, and is it, um, legal?

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    A Facebook group celebrating 'celebrity doppelganger week' has more than 2,000 fans. Will you join in on the fun?
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Forget Groundhog Day. This week, if you're on Facebook, the buzz is on famous friends.

The social networking site has of late played host to an online fad: "celebrity doppelganger week." In a move that will surely mark the end of said fad, we here at Horizons now provide a rundown of the viral phenomenon, starting with what it is.

At its most basic, celebrity doppelganger week (henceforth known as CDW) asks Facebook users "Ever been told you look like _____?" If the answer is yes, track down an acceptable photo of your celebrity double and post it as your profile pic. For more explanation, there's even a Facebook group that's sprung up to chronicle the event – very meta if we do say so.

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Who started it?

Viral videos have a clear originator (see David After Dentist, Charlie Bit My Finger). Trends like this and the New Orleans Saints' "Who Dat" movement, though, can prove harder to tack down. The Huffington Post's Alex Grossman recently posted an interview with the man who's claiming responsibility for CDW. "It all started when the guys at work started teasing me that I look like Tom Selleck. They're like, 'Hey, Tom Selleck, what are you doing?' Or, 'Yo, Tom Selleck, we're talking to you,' " says game designer Bob Patel.

While that friendly office ribbing may in fact be the origin of this round of Facebook profile pic silliness (or not – comments on the post call its veracity into question), the Web-based celebrity doppelganger phenomenon has existed far longer. Genealogy site MyHeritage.com lays claim to the idea for a celebrity look-alike finder, declaring in its explainer, "We invented the celebrity look-alike sensation long before Doppleganger Week on Facebook was conceived and launched upon our unsuspecting world!"

Shakira? Sanjaya?

No one ever told you that "you look just like Tom Cruise"? Never fear. The folks at MyHeritage.com (and their newly-launched doppelgangerweek.com) will let visitors upload a photo, and then apply facial recognition technology to it to help them find out why they can't seem to shake the paparazzi. Eager uploaders should read the site's terms of use, understand that the tool requires registration, and be prepared for a wait: the site has seen a surge of interest as Facebook's 350 million users have rushed to find their celebrity likeness.

If robots scanning your face just isn't your thing, there's always pinging your friends. But beware, dear reader: thick skin is required. Fishing for celebrity look-alike recommendations may yield some unpleasant results. Always fancied yourself more Gerard Butler than, say, Gerard Depardieu? Don't say we didn't warn you.

Copyright? Riiight.

So, your buddies all insist you look like a spiffed-up Jack Black. Great – just troll IMDB for pics of the bushy-browed box-office behemoth at some red carpet premiere, right? Eh, sort of. You see, celebrity photos posted to the Web are most-often owned by the media outlet that paid to send a photographer to take them – and reposting on your profile could be considered intellectually property theft. Facebook's own Terms of Service is very clear about what content may be posted to user profiles: "You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else's rights or otherwise violates the law."

Despite the stern boilerplate, Facebook, when reached for comment by CNET, had this to say in an email:

Users are responsible for the content they post, but as always, Facebook will respond to requests for removal that it receives from copyright holders. In this case, we have received no such requests.

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Ever been told you look like a celebrity? Have you participated in celebrity doppelganger week? Got another Facebook trend that's bound to catch on? Leave a comment, and keep up with what we're keeping up with on Twitter – We're @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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