Former Magnum director Neil Burgess reacted with fury yesterday about how his article “For God’s sake, Somebody Call It” had been lifted from EPUK and used by the London Photographic Association for a promotional campaign.
“That’s outrageous! That’s so outrageous!” he stormed when read the LPA press release headed “Agency director Neil Burgess calls the death of photojournalism on London Photographic Association”.
The LPA press release issued on 9th August was down by the 16th.
Since EPUK revealed the plagiarism on Sunday LPA Managing Director Kevin O’Connor has attempted to defend his actions by claiming that he had permission from Burgess to use the article. But as Burgess has made clear, O’Connor failed to state how he intended to use the piece.
“I thought that it was going to be a blog like Roy Greenslade’s blog. Someone makes a comment and quotes from it. Not turn round and use it absolutely wholesale,” fumed Burgess.
“Looking at the LPA website, it’s clearly a commercial website. I feel misled. He’s pulled a fast one and he’s taking the piss.”
The LPA loves to tweet.
And contrary to the impression O’Connor has sought to convey, the LPA never even received a copy of the article from Burgess’ office. Instead they simply lifted the edited version wholesale from the EPUK site – headings, David Hoffman’s photograph, Burgess’ bio and all – and republished it without attribution; then engaged on a marketing spree that included the press release from Los Angeles based Ginger Media, at least 86 carefully directed messages on Twitter, and postings on Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere.
Even on the free-for-all web there’s a convention amongst honest bloggers and publishers to quote from a piece, then link to the original; indeed that’s what many publications, including The Guardian, did with the original EPUK story. The LPA completely disregarded this convention, instead publishing EPUK’s material in a way that gave the impression that they were running their own original content.
Threatening phone calls
Yesterday, as the truth spread, O’Connor launched the clumsiest of damage-limitation exercises, including untrue claims that EPUK had not contacted either him or Burgess; threatening phone calls; and a bizarre stream of posts on Twitter in which he demanded an apology from anyone who even mentioned the piracy.
But despite the bluster O’Connor’s fiction was rapidly coming apart at the seams. Early yesterday afternoon the Ginger Media press release mysteriously disappeared. Shortly afterwards, and within minutes of NB Pictures giving instruction for its removal, EPUK’s article was taken down from the LPA site.
At this point most people would simply give up. Just call it a day. Walk away. Hope that the self-induced nightmare was over. But O’Connor is clearly made of sterner stuff: he went hyper.
First he posted a brief attempt to spin the truth on the LPA blog in a self-serving post entitled “LPA Wrongly Accused Of Plagiarism.” Despite its brevity the article is riddled with inaccuracies, misleading statements and errors, not the least of which is O’Connor’s inability to spell Neil Burgess’ name correctly.
Next he leapt to Twitter, making a series of accusations against EPUK, finally tweeting repeatedly “Is It The Death Of Photography?” This morning he was back, tweeting “stop bad-mouthing me”, despite the fact that for some 36 hours nobody else on Twitter appeared to have even noticed O’Connor, much less mentioned him. For some people there’s nothing worse than being yesterday’s news.
And now some advice
Kevin, we feel your pain, really we do; in fact, due to your sterling efforts so do many other people who’d never even heard of you or the LPA a few days ago.
So here’s some advice. When you’re in a hole, stop digging. When you’re staring down the barrel of a 12 bore, don’t pull the trigger. And when you’re caught red handed: act contrite and apologise long, loudly and publicly. People might not forgive you, but they may at least forget about you.
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