A Sheer Coincidence Spurs An Incredible Case Of Copyright Infringement On Facebook

Feb 4, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

A Sheer Coincidence Spurs An Incredible Case Of Copyright Infringement On Facebook

Feb 4, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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scurr In 2006, Sarah Scurr was a still a student, studying abroad while working on a languages degree in Santiago. While on a visit to the nearby San Rafael Glacier, Scurr took the image you see above from the tour boat. Scurr had tucked the photo away until she moved to the UK several years later. Pleased with how her glacier photo came out, she entered into a contest hosted by The Telegraph. The photo made it into the final rounds and was considered by to be one of the top contenders. Scurr was pleased with the success of her image, but didn’t put much more thought into it as she carried about her life.

Flash forward to January 2015 and Scurr’s glacier photo makes a surprise reappearance in her life in the way of a copyright infringement claim. Chilean reporter, Marisol Ortiz Elfeldt, posted on the Telegraph’s Facebook wall,  informing them, she was the person who took the glacier photo, not Ms. Scurr. Elfeldt added her copy of the photograph on the Facebook post in an effort to prove she was the copyright holder. Before long, Scurr started receiving harsh insults and was being accused of theft by individuals on Facebook that she had never even met.

marisol
Elfeldt’s post on The Telegraph’s Facebook page with a copy of her photograph.

The Telegraph contacted Scurr asking about the allegations. Scurr and Elfeldt, both, provided the publication with original, unedited copies of the photo they both claimed to take. The Telegraph looked at the EXIF data from each of the women’s original photos and determined they were taken on the very same day. They also noticed a very slight difference in perspective. A difference they determined to be caused by a moving boat. As it would turn out, the two women had been on the same tour boat, on the same day, and snapped nearly identical photos of the iceberg.

“As incredible as it may seem, it looks like Sarah and I shared the same boat while visiting the glaciers in 2006. Once I saw the picture, which looks exactly like mine, I really thought it was the one I took that day – but it seems that she actually was there, right next to me, clicking almost at the same time.” Elfeldt told the Telegraph.

Scurr graciously responded to the findings, saying “It’s a bizarre coincidence and I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. You’ve got hundreds of people staring at landmarks or landscapes, all taking the same picture on their smartphone or camera. Hopefully, should anyone else find themselves in the same position, they will think twice before making public accusations. I’m delighted they’ve been proven to be false – I’m not a plagiarist.” [ via The Telegraph ]

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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6 responses to “A Sheer Coincidence Spurs An Incredible Case Of Copyright Infringement On Facebook”

  1. Michael Mulligan Avatar
    Michael Mulligan

    As an aside, this has actually happened to me every so often, for similar reasons.

    I used to shoot pageants, and although we had a “no cameras” rule, it was not uncommon for parents to sneak a camera or two in during the event. I actually had one parent who consistently did this, posted photos an hour or two after the event, and boasted about besting the photographer (me). Imagine my delight when I saw that we had two nearly identical shots, providing me with an opportunity to illustrate why editing and culling (time and patience) is so important.

    It’s a running joke that I am (just in general) a particularly slow individual, alas, but sometimes that pays off.

    Anyway, thought I would share.

    Note:
    Actually, it seems I may be walking in to a similar situation while posting this. The individual was a non-professional and posted to Facebook to the general public. Am I breaking any rules posting the images here for comparison?

    1. Sean Avatar
      Sean

      I’m assuming yours is the color cast blurry ones? :) Kidding.

  2. Mark Avatar
    Mark

    If one person has a legitimate copyright to the picture, what rights does the other have, assuming they’re artistically identical?

    1. Cedric Avatar
      Cedric

      That’s an excellent question !

    2. bermanart Avatar
      bermanart

      They only have a legitimate copyright to the picture they took, not someone else’s image.

  3. C. A. Bridges Avatar
    C. A. Bridges

    There was a book out recently featuring the versions of iconic photos — Ali standing over Frazier, the Tank Man, etc. – taken by people standing next to the now-famous photographer whose versions often became more popular because one was with a bigger news service or who granted less restrictive usage.