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  1. #1
    Senior Member

    An 'Ethics' Question

    I'm guessing more than a few of us participate in various photography sites and clubs where there are "contests", most of which provide little other than self-satisfaction to the winners. Say someone is a member of an online site where these contests take place and they see an image that they absolutely love and set about recreating it. The result is a triumph but more than closely resembles the original, again taken by another amateur. The person then submits their version of the photograph using the same title to a local club-based contest.

    You are a member of both communities and are familiar with the source of inspiration for the photograph, and to the best of your knowledge that photograph was an original concept.

    Do you consider the submission by the person as something bordering on plagiarism? Is the photograph a forgery? Is it in any way unethical for them to have submitted the nearly identical photo with the same title to a contest that the original photographer would never be a part of? If the answer to any of these is "Yes" in your opinion what, if anything, would you do about it?

    Literally asking for a friend so I will save my thoughts for later, while at the same time admitting to having won a tripod in a contest early on in my photography with this utterly unoriginal shot...

    An 'Ethics' Question-20140221-d62_3560-frame-copy.jpg


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    Last edited by BackdoorArts; 12-11-2020 at 04:25 PM.
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    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)



  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Peter7100's Avatar

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    Firstly I love your (assuming it was yours ) winning photo.
    It is a difficult one to answer as every photographer at some stage in their hobby/career must have looked at a photograph and thought 'I would love to be able to do that'.
    I think when it comes to still life shots or macro shots there must be millions of 'duplicates' out there as there is only so much you can do indoors. I mainly shoot landscapes myself and often frequent previous favourite locations but it is near impossible to obtain 'duplicate' shots due to the every changing light and weather.
    In my opinion nobody should be critisised for tying to create a certain image they have admired, but to use the same title as someone else and then submit to another competition is a bit much.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter7100 View Post
    Firstly I love your (assuming it was yours ) winning photo.
    Thank you. Yes it was. These are some of the photos that are not... LOL

    An 'Ethics' Question-screen-shot-2020-12-11-8.37.jpg
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    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)

  4. #4
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    hark's Avatar

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    Jake, I remember when you posted this image years ago! On one hand, recreating someone's image can be viewed as a form of flattery. However, submitting the image in a photo contest and using the same title is unethical in my opinion.

    There are some people who start out mimicking the work of another photographer but lack the understanding as to why certain things were done in an image. This is the most basic form of learning - and it's called rote learning. Kind of like children who recite the alphabet without understanding the letters. Eventually many of these photographers want to know the why's and delve into the knowledge on their own. And as they learn, they climb to higher levels of learning (such as synthesis and analysis).

    But then there are others who are simply unscrupulous. For example - I'm in a Facebook group which covers portraits. I joined because I heard there were posts about legalities of photography and was interested. What really surprises me is the people who go out and buy a camera with an f/1.8 lens and consider themselves to be photographers. They download a posing app, charge people for sessions, then come back asking questions how to sharpen faces in groups (because they shot groups of people at f/1.8 without understand the basics of DoF).

    Sorry this happened to you. As I said, I remember when you posted the image so it is definitely memorable. If your image is on Flickr, maybe sent the link to those in charge of the contest? That should show the date taken, date posted, and title.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    @hark I think you misunderstood. This isn't about me, I was just copping to being guilty of committing the the "transgression" in question.

    It's truly about a friend who is the outside party in the scenario above - the person who knows that an image submitted in a contest is an almost identical remake of an image from an online contest site, down to the title. Let's say simply that I am in utter disagreement with them about the situation (it's not the first time) and I'm trying to assess whether what would normally be considered blatant plagiarism and theft in the fine art community is effectively excusable in the world of amateur hobbiests?
    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Woodyg3's Avatar

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    I remember reading about someone who had an award winning photo of an iceberg. Someone else produced a RAW file that looked exactly the same to prove it was his photo that had been stolen. Turns out they were both on the same ship and took the picture at the same time. When examined very closely, there was a very slight difference in the perspective of the two photos. EXIF data showed that they were take at the same time on the same date.

    My only point here is that pictures can, in some cases, be virtually identical by coincidence. Landscape shots will be taken that look identical. People can set up pictures in the studio that look just like someone else's shot without having ever seen it. The sheer volume of photographs taken by the millions of photographers on the planet assures us that very little will actually be totally original, I suppose.

    Now, to the case of a photo being copied right down to the title, I have to suspect that this was intentional and plagiarism. In that case, I see it as being unethical.
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    Woody Green

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  7. #7
    Senior Member
    BeegRhob's Avatar

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    Can I just copy and paste what Woody said? He took the words right from my fingertips, except the part about the iceberg! I am in a facebook group that deals with the law and photography, so I am really just getting an understanding of copyright and usage rights and that kind of stuff. Yeah, I said stuff, because there is a lot of info I didn't really know about! I did, however understand what plagiarism is, and I wouldn't knowingly do something like that person. I might try to recreate something I see, but not to copy it closely and submit it!

    Rob
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  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Whiskeyman's Avatar

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    So, what about if they weren't photographers, but painters? Say, someone saw another's painting of Yosemite Valley, as a scene from Tunnel View, and decided to paint it themselves and it ended up almost exactly like the first. Would that be ethical, or not? They, just like the photographer, had to capture the form of the image onto their respective media. Are the two that different?

    In my opinion, other than the title, it isn't unethical. If it is unethical, I'd say that a lot of unethical activity is involved in photography. Now, if the second photographer took a photo of the first photo and claimed that as their own work, I'd say it was definitely unethical.

    As far as entering something like that in a contest, I wouldn't do it. Were I a contest judge where such an image was submitted, I wouldn't judge it very highly if I recognized it as a subject explored thoroughly by others before.

    WM
    Last edited by Whiskeyman; 12-12-2020 at 02:51 AM.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Whiskeyman's Avatar

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    Quote Originally Posted by BeegRhob View Post
    Can I just copy and paste what Woody said? He took the words right from my fingertips, except the part about the iceberg! I am in a facebook group that deals with the law and photography, so I am really just getting an understanding of copyright and usage rights and that kind of stuff. Yeah, I said stuff, because there is a lot of info I didn't really know about! I did, however understand what plagiarism is, and I wouldn't knowingly do something like that person. I might try to recreate something I see, but not to copy it closely and submit it!

    Rob
    As long as you give him complete credit in your document...

    This is, after all, a discussion about ethics.

    WM
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  10. #10
    Senior Member

    Re: An 'Ethics' Question

    To be clear, the two images are not precisely the same and were you to see them side by side the similarities would be blatantly obvious but you would never confuse one for the other. This is where I would disqualify calling it a "forgery". The copy borrows the concept, color scheme and key elements, but also adds some additional elements. So "plagiarism" can be argued in the same way that using wholesale sections of someone else's speech in your own with no attribution and as if they were your words is considered plagiarism.

    As was brought up, I would posit that all of us have plagiarized other photographers as a part of our learning process, and we've likely shared the results with others. In doing these "recreations" I believe there comes a point where the mindset moves from mimicry to the "Aha!" moment of creativity when what you have in front of you feels like your own because in truth you have made that photograph. It's why there are so many of those egg photos floating around. It's why there are likely millions of images of optical distortions of black and white lines shot through glasses of water. Are these all plagiarized versions of some first photo, or does changing the glass type or adding another glass make it unique enough that it's your own?

    An 'Ethics' Question-screen-shot-2020-12-12-7.14.jpg

    The "ethics" of this for me come down to intent. Was the image recreated with the intention of submitting your own version for a contest, or was the image recreated as a learning exercise and then, some time later, chosen from your catalog for submission in a contest? The timing in this case is such that very little time passed between the creation of the "original" and the submission of the "copy" to the contest. But we very often cannot evaluate intent, so for me the ultimate question is, "Does mimicry in amateur photography pardon the plagiarism of 'conceptual theft' (not blatant forgery) in any form?". I think it has to, particularly under any circumstance where use of the photograph does not realize material gain for the photographer (and I do not consider your name listed among the winners of a club competition "material gain") and did not in any way disenfranchise the original photographer. Again, I am approaching this from a purely amateur/hobbiest perspective (for all photographers involved), and I fully understand the ramifications of the usurpation of someone else's work particularly when the existence of the recreation impacts the value of the original. And I realize this is a slippery slope, but I have to believe that in the realm of true hobbiests there needs to be room for a rewarded lack of originality.

    With regard to the title, were I to show you the photo (either one) and ask you to send me a PM with a suggested title I suspect over 90% of respondents would send the same thing, so that aspect may be splitting hairs.

    And with all that said, the one question that's gone unanswered by those who believe the submission to be unethical, what would you do once you learned about the submission to the contest? Would it bother you enough to say something about it, and if so to whom - the judges, the photographer, the original artist?
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    Jake
    (formerly backdoorhippie)





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