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.
• EPUK is a non-profit organisation run by professional photographers for professional photographers. Membership is free.
Text © EPUK 2010
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I am particularly disappointed that someone who purports to champion photographers’ rights has such little understanding of copyright law and such disregard to producers of both the photographic image and the written word. To borrow a phrase from Ms. Austen, badly done indeed.
Comment 1: Martin C, 17 August 2010, 11:20 pm
It’s funny how some of us - who on one side fight so hard to protect their own rights - all of a sudden forget everything about copyright. Especially when it comes to other people’s work.
Comment 2: Primoz, 18 August 2010, 02:12 pm
A sad state if affairs for sure.
Comment 3: Brian Carey, 20 August 2010, 09:03 pm
As Kevin O’Connor isn’t allowing comments on his self justifying blog published 16 August 2010 (scroll down) here are some much needed corrections.
1. The LPA did have an email permitting publication of “For God’s Sake, Somebody Call it!” but Neil Burgess and his assistant say that Mr O’Connor’s one brief email misled them into giving it.
2. Neither Neil (not “Neal” incidentally) Burgess nor his staff are at all embarrassed. They are angry at LPA’s plagiarism and the wholesale hijacking of EPUK’s article as LPA’s own. Their real feelings are made very clear in their email to LPA.
3. Mr O’Connor claims to have apologised to me. The implicit admission in that statement is welcome but it’s yet another falsehood because he has not apologised to me. Nor for that matter has he apologised to Neil Burgess or to EPUK.
4. While O’Connor has put enormous effort into deleting his many Twitter posts claiming “You owe us a public apology” and “LPA wrongly accused,” he doesn’t appear to have apologised to the hundreds of people he targeted with them.
5. The LPA pretence that it has been falsely accused and deserves an apology does its credibility no good and reflects badly on its members.
Comment 4: David Hoffman, 21 August 2010, 06:42 pm
It’s a shame to see this sort of mistake pushed to a much nastier series of errors. Breach of copyright is a serious offence and the right thing to do would have been to simply correct their error right away and cop it on the chin sweetly and humbly. Compounding it with defamation is instead just begging for a lawsuit or ridicule.
I hope that the LPA have learned much from this massive error of judgement.
Comment 5: Mark Greenmantle Photography, 22 August 2010, 04:15 am
Unbelievable behaviour from an organisation that supports photographer rights and in particular copyright issues – or does it – yes it does or so the photographic industry is to believe. So what happened here? Maybe they see the written word as different to a photographic image. Makes you wonder and certainly puts a nasty taste in your mouth. Time to say goodbye Mr O’Connor or be man enough to apologise and hold your hands up high.
Comment 6: Rena Pearl, 22 August 2010, 06:35 pm
Very poor, LPA, very, very poor indeed.
Comment 7: Rand Hobart, 23 August 2010, 06:08 pm