(updates exif revelations illustrating validity of claim of infringement - image at end of the post)
I get a great deal out of my reading of the various photography organization listservs. Todays gem came from Chicago photographer Joe Pobereskin on APAnet*. It wasn't curious because Joe was reporting that he'd found a food photographer in New York City willing to do 30 dishes, four portraits, five interior/exterior shots, and 2 CD's for $1,500. Sadly, that's the extent to which people will under-value their work. Joe remarked "This has got to be the worst example of under-pricing I've ever
seen. Anyone know these guys?" Well, it didn't take long for someone on the opposite side of the planet to respond. Only the response wasn't what I expected. James Lauritz, of Melbourne, responded: "Well well, the plot thickens." James wrote:
"I am an Australian photographer and all (bar 3) of the photographs on their entire site were taken by me about 2 years ago for Convent Bakery http://www.conventbakery.com here in Melbourne (for a lot more than they would quote)."Indeed, James, the plot thickens.
So, we did some research. First, we went to the ConventHouse bakery site, and had a look around. Sure enough, the photos on the Convent House site are the same.
Here's the "samples" section of the NY Food Photography site, that is alledged to be all (but 3) of James' photos:
Here's a closeup of the samples:
Then, we had a closer look:
|A closer look at this example shows that the icing and lighting highlight are identical. Check this link to see the Convent image large.|
In fact, the image from their home page is a tight crop of one of the berry cheesecakes from the Australian bakery too.
So, where did the other 3 images come from? Here's one that wasn't from the bakery:
The above image is one of three non-dessert images. The other two are shrimp and a beef dish that are on the sample page. So, we entered the URL of the above image into TinEye, and here's what TinEye returned:
Thus, there were 122 other TinEye-located uses out there, several of them royalty-free CD editions. While I could not locate the other two with TinEye, a safe bet would be that the other two came from the same source as the one above.
So, we've established that the images that are on a New Jersey photographers website, purported to be samples of his work, are, as evidenced by the URL from a photographer in Australia, from an assignment for an Australian bakery. Curious indeed.
So, who IS "New York Food Photography"? to start with, we did a WHOIS search, and found the owner, Fink Studios, in Rockaway New Jersey. According to the contact page, where Dave and Alon are listed, Alon Finkelstein is the owner. So, who is he? We located his myspace page here, where we learn that he's 20 years old, and he identifies himself as a pro photographer. He writes, of himself:
I have a love for photography, art and an even greater love for creating it. My passion for people, art, and the creative process consistently comes to life thru my work...I have begun to create work from the talent that I have grown into through both exposure and experience. I want to make yours as well as my photographic visions come true. With our creativity and the help of my professional staff our visual dreams can be realized. Our connection with some of the top professionals in the industry allows us to create pictures that are certainly worth more than a thousand words.Which got me to thinking - celebrities too? Then, further down the page, he lists that he's currently a freelace photographer for Star Tracks photo agency, which is in New York City. So we looked him up on Star Tracks, and found that he has done street photography of celebrities like Sarah Michelle Gellar here, and Debra Messing here, and yet, he goes by Noah Fink on Star Tracks? Here, he matches himself up with the nom de photograph as both Alon and Noah.
I work my very hard and it shows in my work. I love what I do and I will continue to do what I love. There is no stopping me now. I have been published about hundreds of times in the U.S. and Overseas in places like People Magazine, Us weekly, Ok, Star, In Touch weekly, and perezhilton.com the New York Post and many others. I now strive to continue into the future and prove to my self that i can do it.
Also on his myspace page he indicates he is co-owner of the website "NY CELEBS." A visit to that site - www.NYCelebs.com - has an ad which contained a headshot of another photographer in it. While we had that ad here and were commenting on it, it turns out that even that headshot wasn't theirs, and it's been taken down. As such, while we had it posted here for commentary, we too are removing it, so it's no longer in this piece.
The above ad lists a phone #, and offers - "$100 gets you 50-100 pictures on a DVD...no waiting - you leave with your DVD - bring 3 Friends who buy headshots and gets yours free." That phone # matches the phone # on the food site, so Dave must be the other co-owner.
How to Stop This?
James, as laid out here, by all appearances is the actual copyright holder of the images, unless he transferred copyright to the bakery, who, in turn, licensed them to a clip-art disk, and then, Alon/Noah/Dave bought that disk and are now representing the images as samples of their photography. Possible? Not really.
There are a number of solutions. In determining your best course of action (and remember, I am by no means a lawyer), you need to determine what you can expect from your efforts. Alon/Noah/Dave are likely judgement proof, so the best you can hope for is to get the images taken down. A 20 year-old and his pal from Rockaway New Jersey are not about to be writing checks for copyright infringement.
To do that, first find out who owns the place where the images are hosted. In this case, that can be found on Network Solutions, here, and it's Go Daddy. Next, head to the Library of Congress' online service providers listings, here. This is what the listing is all about:
The following service providers have filed designations of agents for notification of claims of infringement pursuant to Section 512(c) of the Copyright Act. The Copyright Office’s current directory of agents consists of this list, with links to copies, in PDF format, of the designations filed on behalf of service providers.
Clicking the "G", scroll down to Go Daddy's information, linked here. In it, you'll find the name and e-mail address to submit a copyright infringement claim. This is you sending the company that hosts their site a "take down notice", and provided they comply, the hosting service almost always cannot be found liable for infringements.
Most service providers request you submit a claim to them in a specific manner. You usually can find the information on how/where on the "legal" page that every hosting provider has somewhere, in small type. Here's Go Daddy's page on how they want the claims to be submitted via e-mail.
This site is an example of alleged copyright infringements and a wholesale lapse in ethical behavior. What started as an example of the reasonable outrage at the rate that was being charged for the amount work being done has turned into much more. The lessons learned here are: 1) do not steal other peoples' work; 2) do not then take that stolen intellectual property and represent it as your own; and 3) charge reasonably for your work.
UPDATE: It has been suggested by those purported to be the owners of the nyfoodphotography.com website in the comments below that they own the rights to the photos. Yet an asute observer found that not to be the case. Below you will see a screen grab (click to make it larger) showing the image of a strawberry chocolate mouse cake, as it appears on the nyfoodphotography.com website. That page is in the background, and the image is viewed in Photoshop in the foreground with the EXIF metadata viewed, showing that the image they have on their site is Lauritzs' image. That's pretty damning evidence against them. Further, they didn't even bother to re-name the file. It's the same "strwaberry-white-chocolate-mousse.jpg", as you can see, both have the "a" missing from strawberry.
Right about now would be a good time for Lauritz to file that paperwork (as explained above) with GoDaddy, and for the owners of nyfoodphotography.com to give up, wipe their site from the face of the internet, and move on to some other business. Whomever does it first, that site should be without food images (or the entire site) pretty soon.
Note: we got Joe's and James' permission to use their posts from APAnet here.
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