When Canon Italy posted a picture on its Instagram of a sunset atop the Umberto Bridge, my first reaction was: “oh, what a pretty sunset.” Others, however, saw more than a sunset; they saw a stolen image.
Soon afterwards, Elia Locardi, of Fstopper’s “Photographing the World” fame, was alerted in a Facebook group that an image of his had appeared to have been posted, albeit in a highly-edited form, by Canon Italy. Soon afterwards, it was posted by Canon Spain as well.
While a lack of accreditation and/or payment may certainly have perturbed Mr. Locardi, the bigger issue appeared to have been Canon’s: the image was shot on a FujiFilm. Almost immediately, Fstoppers Robert K. Baggs published an indignant article entitled “Canon Italy Posts Landscape Composite Without Credit, Stolen Elements, and Taken on a Fujifilm” …whoa.
Then things got even weirder.
Because of the “enormous response” generated by the original story, Baggs continued to dig deeper into the case. Following a response by Canon in which they professed to getting the image from Unsplash–a free image-sharing platform–as well as pointed out notable differences between their and Locardi’s image, Baggs decided to find which user had in fact uploaded this image, landing upon a man named Greg Paul Miller.
Mr. Miller, it seems, follows Locardi on Instagram, and even “liked” the original photograph which he is being accused of stealing. Further, Baggs notes that, had Miller taken Locardi’s tutorial on “Photographing the World,” he would have gained access to the RAW file of the image in question. For Fstoppers, this was all the evidence needed to convict Mr. Miller of “blatant theft.”
The problem is that there are both notable similarities–such as an identical bird atop a tree–as well as notable differences–like a group of people sitting on the bridge–between the images. Further, if Mr. Miller is the villainous con man that he is accused of being, why would he “like” Locardi’s original shot? If he went to the all the trouble of adding false data to the image to make it appear as if it was shot on a Canon (a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV with ISO 100, f/6.3 and shutter speed 2 seconds, to be exact) how could he fail to notice this key piece of evidence which would give him away so easily?
Image stealing is a very sensitive topic at the moment as creative industries grapple with changing cost structures and figuring out how to make a living from work when its distribution and replication is free. However, just because a crime is rampant doesn’t mean we can convict all those we suspect of it on the flimsiest evidence. Without waiting for comment from any of the parties involved, Fstoppers had already published this diatribe:
“…the social media team for Canon Italy (and Spain) have posted a composite landscape, half of which was stolen, not taken with a Canon, and not credited to anyone involved in the creation of this image. Rough day at the office.”
As much as I understand their frustration with digital art-sharing practices, that’s no license for incivility, least of all blogger-on-blogger attacks.
[Update: Mr. Miller appears to have deleted his Instagram, so he totally did it.]