Photo Contest Insider Blog


POY Finalist Photo Taken to Win Art Contest Leading to Copyright Controversy

April 3, 2013

 

A Picture of the Year finalist from 2008 has had his photo taken and used by another artist to enter and win 1st place in a contest run by BMW, and to then walk away with a MacBook Pro and publication as a prize.

 

Winning entry in the Check-Mate Art Contest – by Romain Eloy

 

Published with the winning image is the following comment from MiniSpace:

 

We were mesmerized by the attention to detail displayed in Romain Eloy’s checkered insect. It blends excellent macro photography with sophisticated digital rendering to create a stylized image that blurs the line between the real and surreal.

MiniSpace.com which is a website owned by BMW, have been running a marketing campaign for their Mini Cooper via art contests, offering large valuable prizes, such as MacBook Pro’s, iPad’s, iPhone’s, and the like.

Sounds good right? but when Kevin Collins found out that his photo had been taken, manipulated, and then entered in to the Check-Mate photo contest  by Romain Eloy a 23 year old from France, and won 1st place, Kevin was not best pleased.

 

When we spoke to Kevin about this, he replied with:

 

I only recently discovered this issue when my Flickr stats led me here (Which is an article about photographers stealing from others). On March 31st, I sent an email to Minispace requesting that they provide attribution or remove all instances of Eloy’s photo.

In 2008, I posted the photo on Wikimedia Commons with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LeopardMothBlueSpots_edit2.jpg

Now, I will admit that my Wiki page does not specify a manner of attribution (when I uploaded the photo, there was no streamlined way to do this).

However, according to CreativeCommons.org“All current CC licenses require that you attribute the original author(s). If the copyright holder has not specified any particular way to attribute them, this does not mean that you do not have to give attribution. It simply means that you will have to give attribution to the best of your ability with the information you do have.”

 

Original photo by Kevin Collins

 

The top Image is a cropped version of the original photo taken by Kevin Collins. The bottom image is the manipulation of the photo. – Click the image to enlarge

We went on and asked Kevin if Eloy had informed him of his intentions? and Kevin replied:

 

I have yet to receive any communication from Minispace or Eloy.

Naturally, these claims infuriate me.

It is a monumental slap in my face for Minispace to classify Eloy’s submission as “100% original,” or as his “own artwork.”

As early as July 2012, people have informed Minispace that Eloy’s work is not original (the rules specify that submissions must be “100% original work”).

 

It has also been said that the disgruntled 2nd place winner Abdul Cader has sent a number of emails to Minispace over a period of many months with only a few sporadic replies.

In one of the replies Abdul received, Minispace said:

 

“[Eloy] digitally manipulated it enough – wittily retouching the moth’s spots into checkers – for it to classify as his own artwork, and for us to select it as first-place winner. Eloy’s work is not in breach of any copyright infringement laws and as such, we will not be making any changes to our winners selection and/or allocation of prizes.”

 

We’ve contacted Creativecommons.org and asked the following questions:

1. Under this CC license, does the original photographer retain the copyright to their photo?

2. Is attribution always required?

3. If the photo is heavily manipulated so that it was questionable if it was still the original photo, would the original copyright holder have any claim over the new image even if in part only?

Creative Commons replied with:

A copyright holder using a CC license keeps their copyright, but is simply choosing to dedicate some, not all, of those rights to the public.

Every single current CC license requires attribution/credit.

The copyright for derivative works belongs to the person who made the derivative, but they of course still must abide by the license terms of the original work. In the case of the ShareAlike licenses, any derivative works, no matter how minor or substantial, must also be released under the terms of the same ShareAlike license as the original work.

We have contacted Minispace to comment on this, but as of writing this post, we’ve not had a reply.

 

Update April 3rd 2013 18:15 BST

Today, the link to the contest winner on minispace.com has been removed while they look in to the issue.

 

Update: April 4th 2013 14:47 BST

Today we received a reply from MiniSpace as below:
 

Regarding the MINI Space “Checkmate!” design competition, it has been brought to our attention that the 1st place winning entry violated the competition rules. We have since taken the concerns of our community seriously and looked into the matter in thorough detail.
We are excluding the winning entry retroactively from the competition.
We are very grateful to our passionate community for their continued dedication to “Creative Use of Space” philosophy for which MINI Space stands.

 


  • David Coomber

    How can minispace even try to justify this blatant deception by suggesting that the original image is of less importance then a photoshop rip off,original stems from its creation not from its manipulation,any fool can do that.

  • The fact that the original image was licensed as “Creative Commons” was the first thing that caught my eye in the article. People read CC as carte blanche to take things and ignore the fine print! Even the fact that the sponsor of this competition argued against the claims for so long proves just how nebulous the concept of CC is. I have only once provided a CC license on one of my photos because it was required for publication by the Wall Street Journal for an article. Subsequently, I’ve found the image being given away as free cellphone wallpaper and in other places. “All rights reserved” does not guarantee against theft and misuse but at least the message is clear.

  • Greg Norris

    What an embarrassment and very poorly handled situation. At the first hint of a copyright claim, minispace shoudl have pulled the photo and investigated. To try and claim that it has been “digitally manipulated” enough, is simply a poor attempt to cover up the whole affair. What compensation, if any, did Kevin Collins get? I certainly hope he has taken action against them for breach of copyright.