A warning about copying captions

I recently discovered that some of my photo captions from a recent Julian Assange set had been copied and pasted word-for-word by an Alamy/Demotix contributor. The individual concerned had form in this area after being caught copying another photographer’s captions the month before.

20/12/2012. LONDON, UK. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (pictured) gives an address from a balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge. He has been in the embassy for 6 months avoiding extradition to Sweden.  Photo credit :  Cliff Hide (Cliff Hide)

20/12/2012. LONDON, UK. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (pictured) gives an address from a balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge. Photo credit : Cliff Hide

Its inevitable that similar photos are going to have similar captions and I often check details with fellow photographers. Normally its asking “who the hell is that?” while pointing to a photo of some Z-list celebrity. Agency style guides are also broadly similar.

BUT wholesale copying is just not on and raises the question of what other unethical practices are going undetected. While facts can’t be copyrighted, how they are expressed definitely can be.

In this case I wrote the captions in question in a hurry (while sitting on a doorstep in the rain trying to wire before 50 other photographers). They contained a typo and some double punctuation that made his copying easy to prove.

Once they were made aware both Alamy and Demotix quickly deleted the offending photos and they considered deleting his account, although in the end he was given a second chance. However tempting it might be to save yourself a few seconds when captioning by copy and pasting its just not worth the risk of your entire archive being removed by your agency.

Oh and the worse thing about this whole episode? He is currently studying photojournalism at a London university. I guess they haven’t got to the ethics module yet.

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