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Ted Szukalski

Gallery of fine art photography.

My good name, Copyright Act, DMCA and plagiarism


In mid March 2008 I have photographed a man shining shoes of a woman customer. The man’s name is Bryan and he is a well known personality to anyone working or visiting Sydney. He has shoe shining station placed in a very busy Pitt Street Mall. As far as I know, he may be the only person offering shoeshine service in the street in Australia, as it is not a service commonly offered in Australian streets. My photograph of Bryan and his customer, at least to me, is one of a positive attitude and enterprise. Bryan, down on luck, does not beg for money. He puts a solid day’s work to earn his living. In Sydney, where almost every corner of CBD is now occupied by beggars, Brian’s approach to life and financial misfortunes is commendable.

In mid September 2008 I start receiving emails accusing me of being racist. After few days someone with a little bit more sense makes me aware my photograph has been altered (without my authorization) to portray the shoe shine man to be at the time senator Barack Obama and his customer to be Sarah Palin, who at the time was Alaska’s Governor. The altered image was apparently distributed via email. The plagiarist chose to keep my copyright notice, and thus implying the highly controversial image was created by me. It was not.

Originally I have stated I will not publish the plagiarised work. However, now due to other circumstances I have decided to show it, so people can understand why I am trying so hard to defend my name against this plagiarised image. Please note how it still displays my name and the name of this website. I have added wording on top of this image, so if it distributed again, there will be no ambiguity about its authorship.

Colorado state worker could be punished for Obama e-mail


This is an ugly story that refuses to die.

Some time ago during American presidential elections, which saw Barack Obama becoming the USA president some person has stolen my copyrighted photograph and altered it in derogatory way to portray Barack Obama shoe shining Sara Palin’s shoes. So, once again: I did not create the Obama/Palin image and below you can see my original photograph.

I have already posted an article explaining this was an unathorised plagiarism. Never the less it seems the image is still being forwarded in USA and this time someone got in trouble for forwarding this image on company’s time and using company’s resources. The company is Colorado Department of Transportation – a Colorado state government institution.

The story was initially published by Associated Press in Denver and then it was quickly syndicated across hundreds of news websites and blogs. AP’s original story had no image associated with it, but almost all other sites printed the unauthorized plagiarism of my photograph. Interestingly almost all of these sites made sure to insert copyright notices on their story and “All rights reserved” note, yet none of them observed my rights over the image.

The woman, who forwarded this image using employer’s e-mail system, is facing some disciplinary action. I wonder what should all these news and blog sites face? They all should know USA Copyright Act. I found this site, which summarizes the copyright very well – perhaps all of the people reproducing this plagiarized image should read it.

Just for clarity I have not granted any media or news agency any publishing or distribution rights to this image or any images derived from it (legally or otherwise).