When Is An Image 'Manipulated Enough' To Become An Original Creation?
from the tricky dept
Images manipulated using programs like Photoshop or the GIMP are a familiar sight online. Indeed, the ease with which images can be modified has led to an amazing flowering of this new branch of the visual arts. But like much in the digital world, this brings with it problems. Here, for example, is the interesting case of a competition on the MINI Space site, which is run by BMW as an oblique form of marketing for its Mini car. An article on the PetaPixel photography blog explains what happened when the site invited submissions on the theme of "check-mate" (pointed out to us by @copyrightgirl). Here's "PapiloChessBoard", the photomanipulated image that gained the winner a MacBook Pro laptop:
Pretty impressive. But it later transpired that it was based on the following image by the photographer Kevin Collins:
As PetaPixel explains:
Collins was never contacted for permission, and he never allowed his photo to be manipulated and published without attribution -- much less as an entry in a contest. (He did Creative Commons license the photo, but required that any use carry attribution).
Initially, the MINI Space site seemed untroubled by this fact:
We hear that the contest was contacted by the second place winner regarding the violation. Their response was that the photo was not a violation of the rules or copyright due to the fact that it was "manipulated enough" to qualify as original artwork.
But it seems now to have changed its mind, as an update on the competition page explains:
After the "Check-Mate" winners were announced, it came to our attention that the first place entry was in violation of our competition rules. MINI Space values its community above all else, and as such, the original winning entry "PapiloChessBoard" has been disqualified retroactively.
Since the original photo's attribution was not included, there's no doubt that the modified image breaches the CC licensing terms, even though they were hardly onerous. But leaving that aside for the moment, this episode does raise the interesting question of when a modified image is "manipulated enough" by software to become a new creation in its own right. Of course, that's not a new question, but the ease with which photomanipulation can now be carried out to create complex re-workings of existing images means that it's one that is likely to be posed increasingly frequently.