Hengki Koentjoro, world wide known artist and awarded for his amazing black and white photographs, couldn’t believe his eyes: Due to a friend’s tip, he discovered one of his photos as winning entry on Samsung Camera’s photo contest „Live the moment“ on Facebook. Horizontally flipped, slightly cropped and digitally altered with an instagram filter, a user submitted the photo as his own to the contest via his instagram profile – and won. Samsung Camera made a congratulatory shout out on Facebook, including the picture. Nearly one month later, Koentjoro commented on the entry, documenting the copyright violation with a screenshot comparison of both images.
Within the social web, solidarity and support for the well known photographer (who promotes his work via social media platforms such as Flickr, 500Pix, Facebook and Google+) were overwhelming: During the first few hours after Koentjoro left his comment on Facebook – and also on Samsung Camera’s instagram stream – hundreds of his fans responded. They did not only blame the infringing user of image theft and copyright fraud, but also criticized the company for copyright infringment and ignorance on the case, directly addressed by properly tagging Samsung Camera.
First and very interesting result, for it illustrates the complete lack of respect towards intellectual property and the artist himself: obviously, the user deleted his Facebook profile – but not his Instagram profile. Then he deleted all critical comments on the stolen photo at his Instagram stream, including a profile portrait photo. And he didn’t miss to publish a rude answer, blaming all commentators of »harassment«, pretending he read the rules of Samsung Camera’s contest and being »very aware that it was respected.« He ended up in insulting photographer Hengki Koentjoro and his fans: »So stop being kissass’ers in order to disclaim for him a prize that he doesn’t deserve.« This comment has been deleted meanwhile – but is documented via screenshot below. (IG-users still continue to comment on the profile, as well as the user continues to delete those comments.)
Second result: Samsung Camera took down the photo which was identified as stolen from all social media channels, disqualified the user for copyright infringement and violation of contest terms. Additionally, Samsung sent a personal message to photographer Hengki Koentjoro: »Thank you for alerting us in regard to this issue. We take copyright infringement very seriously and it is very unfortunate that present case has taken place. We have disqualified the applicant of this picture and he is no longer the winner of the contest neither will he receive the prize. Further we have taken down the winner announcement posts from all our channels.«
Dr. Robert Tobin and Hitoshi Ohashi of TobinOhashi Gallery Tokyo represent Hengki Koentjoro and his works. To their opinion, the case is too complex for just a simple personal note. Informing Koentjoro about the removal of Samsung Cameras entries with the stolen photo wouldn’t be enough: „This is despicable.“ Hitoshi Ohashi says, »They have stolen the baby of a wonderful hardworking artist. He has been so generous in sharing his work with everyone and one of the results is that people see his work. I would never expect someone to rip it off.«
Dr. Robert Tobin adds: „Just deleting the picture, sending a kind mail to the original photographer and hoping that ‚everything is alright now‘ is not enough.“ He expects Samsung Camera to take further steps: At least a public announcement about the withdrawn prize, a clear explication of the reasons for withdrawal and take down of the photo, including answers to numerous questions of Hengki Koentjoro’s fans and followers – and an apologize to the artist as well.
Regarding the whole case, this is not only a serious copyright infringement, which normally results in judicial consequences. Under the aspect of corporate image and corporate communication it is an epic fail. Personal conclusion: The internet is a great way to promote artists‘ works of all kinds, the risk of copyright violation included; artists have to handle the risk and to develop individual positions of defending their intellectual property. But notably mentioned: The internet does not only make it easier to infringe copyright; its users also enable clarification of facts, gorgeous encouragement and great solidarity.
Edit: As a journalist, I follow the principle »altera pars«, also known as »both sides«: Unfortunately, Samsung Camera didn’t answer to any of my requests on the case. It would have been interesting to know if the company (besides any »Terms of Contest«) asked for hi-res or original files before making any decisions on the contest or plans to do so for future contests. In times of digital photography this should be a regular procedure for any serious photo contest – in order to verify authorship of individual submissions, with no regard whether professional, amateur or hobby photographers.
To be continued.
All photographs above are screenshots, comparisional image published with Hengki Koentjoro’s kind permission.
Update 22.8.2013: Instagram user Bogdhan still continues to delete comments of users which blame him for the image theft. Additionally, he posted another, bizarre statement with a portrait of an elderly woman, claiming he has »the original photo and original EXIF« of the contest image. Unfortunately he didn’t answer to any requests for a statement; but changed his Instagram profile to »thethieff« (original spelling). He also continues to claim the stolen photo his work – and to delete comments.
Samsung sent a message to Hengki Koentjoro, photographer – with an acknowledgement of ownership of the photograph and an apology.
»(…) We feel it is very unfortunate that such a case has happened for this contest. In terms of the validation process of this contest, we adopt a much similar process like that of other content distribution/hosting sites whereby once the users or applicants upload contents, we take reasonable steps to monitor them. However, as soon as a potential breach of policies or terms and conditions are notified or suspected either by other users or by us, we take actions to thoroughly investigate the case and decide carefully on the actions to remediate or rectify the case as deemed appropriate. This has applied in this case also.
We will make a clarifying statment as to give credit of the photo to Henki Koentjoro. This announcement will be made on the main Statigram event page along with the announcement of 4th winner early next week. (…)«
Hengki Koentjoro’s personal website
Hengki Koentjoro on 500px
Hengki Koentjoro’s Flickr stream (including screenshots of the case)
TobinOhashi Gallery Roppongi Minato-ku Tokyo, Japan
Reactions on the web:
„Stolen Photo Wins Samsung’s Live In The Moment Photo Contest“ (FStoppers.com, 20.8.2013)
»Controversy Erupts After Stolen Picture Wins Samsung Photo Contest« (PetaPixel, 21.08.2013)
»Una foto robada gana un concurso de fotografia« (fotografia.com, 21.8.2013)
»Affäre um Aufnahme: Samsung kürt geklautes Bild zum Siegerfoto« (SpOn, 21.08.2013)
»Stolen Shot ‚Wins‘ Samsung Contest« (Nicolas Socrates, 22.8.2013)
»On His Photo Stolen, Hengki Koentjoro Calls Apology From Samsung and The Thief« (exposure-magz.com, 22.8.2013)
»Photographer’s fury after conman steals one of his prized photos…« (Daily Mail, 22.3.2013)
»Stolen Photo Wins Samsung Camera Contest« (Wall Street Journal online, Mayumi Negishi, 23.8.2013)