There have been quite a few controversial photographic competition winners recently, in most cases the winner has been stripped and the conversation has moved on to where the line between a photographic image and a photoshopped image is.
BMW Mini Cooper has been running regular marketing campaigns based on art contest. The contests attract thousands of entrants with great prizes up for grabs. The terms and conditions of the contests state that work submitted must be 100% original. BMW has now managed to redefine what 100% original really means.
The controversy starts with the winner of a recent contest themed “Check-mate” that was won by 22-year-old, Romain Sarkal Eloy. He submitted the work below. He titled the work Papilio Chess Board. The entry won the contest and Romain won a MacBook Pro.
The image is nice, it shows great macro work and the digital editing has expanded on the pattern of the original image. And the contest agrees;
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.
The problem is that Romain did not take the picture he only manipulated it. The original image was shot by Kevin Collins. Kevin did apply a Creative commons license to his work but in using the license the image must carry attribution. Kevin would not be upset about his work being used by someone else but they must credit him with the original work.
Kevin has said that he releases images with a Creative Commons Licenses with the intent of helping educational and non-profit institutions, enabling them access to detailed images to use. He never intended the work to help someone win a competition.
The judges running the contest were contacted by the second place runner up, who pointed out the manipulation and that the work was not 100% original. The judges responded by saying the work did not violate the competitors rules or copyright since the image was manipulated enough to constitute a new work.
For me this incident shows two things, firstly a complete disregard, by a major brand, of an images copyright.
The contest was a marketing campaign to promote the Mini Cooper and BMW. What the campaign has told me is BMW don’t care about copyright. If I took a Mini copper and made modifications which are superficial, can I sell this as the Aperture Mobil? No they would be on me with a ton lawyers.
Secondly, in saying that manipulation can create a new original work seems crazy, since you can tell it is the same image, this is setting a president that others can use to argue that it is ok to steal an image as long as you manipulate it enough.
Finally Creative Commons is a great way for photographers to make images available to certain people and groups or to take private images and make them public. If BMW’s opinion in this case sets a trend then I am sure photographers will think twice before apply this license.