EXCLUSIVE: A British photographer exposed for using copyrighted images without permission is up to his old tricks three years on...
Page One: Photographers express shock at blatant rights grab
A British photographer exposed for using copyrighted images without permission is up to his old tricks three years on, reports Simon Barber. (Additional reporting by AP’s Chris Cheesman)
A professional photographer who in 2009 was accused of passing off other photographers’ work as his own – and was investigated by police for alleged fraud – is once again the subject of serious allegations.
On his website Mark Stothard, who is thought to live in Somerset, describes himself as a ?committed, professional, commercial, press and sports photographer with years of experience?.
However, others who knew him in a previous incarnation, as Mark the Photographer described him as a ‘conman’ and a ‘fake’.
In February 2009, BBC West broadcasted a film about Stothard and his business practices.
For most pro photographers this would be a fantastic opportunity to market themselves.
However, for Stothard it uncovered a catalogue of accusations, a trail of complaints, a stack of unpaid debts and bankruptcy.
Perhaps worse, there were allegations from photographers that he was using their images on his website without consent and passing them off as his own.
Photographer Morgan David de Lossy from Brussels found an image he had taken of his wife being used on Stothard?s site to demonstrate his photographic talent.
This behaviour earned Stothard the dubious distinction of being the first photographer to be expelled from the British Press Photographers? Association in its 28-year history.
Subsequent to these allegations – and a police fraud squad investigation concerning items being offered for sale on eBay – Stothard shut down his website and seemed to disappear from view.
Until recently that is, when he suddenly re-appeared on the web at blog.markstothard.com & markstothard.com offering among other services ‘photowalks’ – paid-for photography tutorials around picturesque cities.
Stothard promises participants that he ?passes on his years of knowledge, experience and explains in Basic English, photographic know-how and techniques that will improve your photographic results?.
Charging £25 per person – in a maximum class of 12 – the tour takes 3-4 hours and could earn him up to £300 a session.
To help the buyer visualise the educational experience, he helpfully provides beautifully shot, evocative examples of the location. The image is displayed in a frame with the legend ‘Mark Stothard Photowalk’ beneath.
Victims come forward
The photos show originality, creativity and are excellent examples of what you might expect from a photographer who had spent years mastering his skills – but were they taken by Mark Stothard?
Apparently not. According to the photographers who are coming forward from around the world, the images have been used without their permission.
Among them, Sam Javanrouh who operates the Daily Dose of Imagery site from Toronto, Canada. He discovered his photo of Brighton beach, taken in 2007, appearing on Stothard’s blog advertising his Brighton Photowalk.
Javanrouh said: ?On my website it specifically states that anyone wanting to use the pictures commercially must get my permission before doing so.
?I think it’s outrageous that someone can operate in this way – It’s totally unethical. It casts a shadow over professional photographers as a whole.?
This image of Brighton beach was taken by Sam Javanrouh
Here, Mark Stothard uses Sam’s photo to promote his photography walks
A one-time error may be forgiven by some, but it doesn’t end there.
On the copyright page of his website Stothard asks that his intellectual property is respected and illustrates the page with an evocative image of cranes on Bristol Quay ? an image which photographer David Martyn accuses Stothard of having used without permission.
?It?s unbelievable!? said Martyn. ?My images are copyrighted and marked All Rights Reserved on the Flickr page. There’s no way he should have used this without my consent ? especially on the page of his website where he asks people not to steal his copyright.
?I have invoiced him and will ?attend? one of his Photowalks if it is not honoured.?
‘They’re marketing images’, claims Stothard
When approached, Mark Stothard denied using any images without consent and claimed to have the authority to use Martyn?s photograph.
?I don?t claim that the images on the Photowalks page are taken by myself. They?re images provided by our web designer,? said Stothard.
?They?re either royalty free, under a Creative Commons license. Or a fee has been paid to the license holder.?
However, this is disputed. Both Martyn and Javanrouh claim their images were used without prior permission, or knowledge. And now a third photographer has come forward complaining about images on Stothard?s website.
Michael Vasselin from Dublin discovered his Flickr image of the Seven Sisters cruise liner was being used, again without his consent and this time to advertise a photowalk in Dieppe, France.
?At nearly 4,000 views this picture is one my most popular? he said. ?I’m staggered that someone like Stothard, who calls himself a professional photographer, would try to leech off someone’s else?s creativity and effort. I took this image and can prove it.?
When challenged, Mark Stothard claimed: ?I?m 100% sure I have the rights to use all these images. However, if the evidence is put to me by the photographers concerned, and it is proved there has been a mistake, I?ll see that it gets put right immediately and personally apologise for the error.?
Stothard also maintains that he has received an invoice from David Martyn that authorises use of the image subject to payment.
He would not comment on Martyn?s assertion that the invoice was issued as a consequence of the image being discovered on Stothard?s blog, and that permission was not sought beforehand.
Stothard, as featured in a report by BBC West’s Inside Out programme in 2009
When asked why a professional photographer would want to use amateur photographers’ images to promote his business Stothard replied: ?Convenience. I?ve been along to these places several times but much of my work was out of date so I have used these photographs in the same way that any other business would.?
Despite the images appearing captioned with the words ?Mark Stothard Photowalks?, he maintains attendees would not feel duped if they found out that he was advertising the event with images he had not actually taken himself.
?If a photographer takes a picture of a cow in a field it doesn?t mean that the only person who can use that picture is the original photographer does it?, he added.
?It?s exactly the same thing with the Photowalks pictures ? they?re not my pictures, they?re marketing images.?
© Si Barber 2012.
JESSOPS FALLS PREY TO TANGLED WEB OF WRONGDOING
Stothard failed to respond to repeated requests for comment when approached by Amateur Photographer (AP)?s Chris Cheesman concerning the above revelations. But word that he is up to his old tricks comes as no surprise to Neil Turner, vice-chairman of the British Press Photographers? Association (BPPA) who said Stothard remains one of only three photographers to be thrown out of the BPPA.
?He disappeared off the face of the earth for about six months,? said Turner who found that Stothard had no verifiable address but believes he lives in Minehead, North Somerset. ?He seems to find a way to reinvent himself.’
Turner said it can only benefit the profession as a whole that he is exposed. ?He is a permanent thorn in the side of photography ? you can only wish he would reinvent himself as something else, a taxidermist for instance.
‘He absolutely knows it?s a breach of copyright but what can you do – he knows he can get away with it.?
Stothard?s previous company, Mark the Photographer Ltd – which was registered at a West London address – was dissolved on 12 February 2011, according to Companies House. Stothard?s newly designed website suggests he now trades under the name Mark Stothard, Photographer.
Meanwhile, Jessops was horrified to be told by AP of Stothard?s boast – on his website – that his photographic work is sponsored by Britain?s biggest high-street camera chain (see image below).
A Jessops spokeswoman yesterday confirmed ?it does not sponsor any of Mark Stothard?s images and is currently looking into removing content to this effect from his website?.
Simon Barber, author of the main article (above), said he was moved to investigate Stothard?s recent activities after he noticed him repeatedly appearing on an internet forum for professional photographers.
?I think the trade has a vested interest in keeping the rogues out where possible,? Barber, a photographer himself, told AP.
What should you do if you fall victim to the likes of Stothard? Barber writes: ?Due to the nature of the web and digital imaging it can be difficult to keep track of your photographs and their use.
?However Google Image Search and Tineye make it easier than ever to track down uses of your pictures and check that they are legitimate.
?If you do find an image of yours that has been used without your consent then, before contacting the infringer, photographers may wish to read lawyer-turned-photographer Simon Crofts? article on the Editorial Photographers UK website www.epuk.org.?
Page Two: More copied photo examples here
Michael Vasselin discovered that his Flickr image of the Seven Sisters cruise liner was being used by Stothard (see below)
David Martyn’s image of cranes, and Stothard’s reproduction, below