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  1. #1
    Aggie's Avatar
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    What is plagiarism?

    I have recently been wondering about this subject. Is it plagarism to share your knowledge about something you do, then have that person use it, and after claim in the broader world and in news media that it was their process? Or is it being happy that your idea and process was used by another to further photography? Is it doing similar work, IE if you were a landscape photographer, and having someone else claim you plargarized their photo by shooting a scene that was also landscape? It is a broad subject, and one I have no real answer to. As photographers I would like your input. What is really photographic plagarism? If there is real plagarism being done, what do we do about it? Do we expose the person(s) or do we just sit back and let it happen?
    Non Digital Diva

  2. #2
    copake_ham's Avatar
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    Simplest explanation (probably inadequate) is that it is taking the work of another and purporting it to be your own with no attribution to the originator.

  3. #3
    Robert Hall's Avatar
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    You're not going to get any firm answers here.

    I've seen it more in commercial work. A relative of mine had a photographic concept that was "re-shot" about 6 years later by a local photographer.

    The real problem is the difference between the morality of it and what case law and copyright law have to say about it.

    Most of the images from which I make money have been shot many times over. Even with the attempts of some well known photographers to try and copyright their tripod holes, I hope my images look a little different.

    But I guess one could argue as well, I have 4 negatives of a hoodoo down in southern Utah and each one is different because of the clouds moving by.

    If each negative was taken by a different photographer moments later, would that be plagiarism?
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    Technology is not a panacea. It alone will not move your art forward. Only through developing your own aesthetic - free from the tools that create it - can you find new dimension to your work.

  4. #4
    Paul Sorensen's Avatar
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    I think that plagarism is tough to define in photography. When someone does a rephotographic survey it is often looked at as homage or a historical document. When someone does landscapes in the style of Ansel Adams or portraits in the style of Penn, for example, that is sometimes looked at as cheap imitations, but sometimes with a little more respect. In pretty much none of those cases is it considered actual plagarism.

    Plagarism is usually defined as appropriating someone else's work as your own. Unless you steal a photograph off of the web or from some other place and represent it as yours, you are still doing the "work" to at least some extent. The idea and inspiration may not be yours, but the effort and skill it took to create the item was all yours.

    Another example can be found in literature. You can steal a story idea or even the style of another author without it being plagarism. For it to be plagarism you have to steal the actual writing. You may be a hack if you just write fake John Grisham novels but it is not considered illegal unless you use his words or actually pretend to be him. I think that it is the same with photography.

    This does not mean that just going around stealing other people's ideas is good, but that it is not necessarily illegal. (Software has gotten around this with patents of the look and feel of the product. I doubt you could do this with a photograph)

    Another issue here, as you allude in your post, is that there is a massive gray area, in fact in this are it is mostly all gray. There is almost nothing that is not derivative of something. At what point is it considered bad form to rip someone's idea off and at what point are you appropriately learning from what others have done and moving forward with it? I think that each of us has to make that decision for ourselves and decide what feels right. As for plagarism, I am only going to worry if someone takes one of my photogaphs and represents it as their own. I can't do more than that.

  5. #5
    jimgalli's Avatar
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    Did you mean: plagiarism

    Pretty tough in Photography. The obvious answer is when I see my photo in someone elses advertisement, but that's theft, not plagiarism.

    Solomon's wisdom still holds. There's nothing new under the sun. Get 5 legit photogs together like the Texas Church Project and I'll guarantee that even if all 5 happened to be working within feet of each other, their vision and their product will be as different as their personalities. Plagiarism is when someone has a brilliant idea that someone else sees, duplicates, and benefits from.

    We were on a workshop the other day when Juls had what I considered a brilliant idea for a photograph. There were nail holes in a tin building and shafts of sunlight were coming in through the holes. Juls picked up some glass insulators and set them on the dusty plank floor at the end of the shafts of light and those things just glowed with other-worldly light. I absolutely loved the concept. It's so rare that a photographer actually thinks. If I made the same picture 10 minutes later and got famous using it, is that plagiarism? Probably.

    Extremely hard to nail down. Like the preacher that actually invented film 3 weeks ahead of Eastman. In that case both were thinking in parallel with no knowledge of the other. Eastman had the money and we all know how that story wound up.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

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  6. #6
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    I think you have to make a distinction between two things you mention: the image and the process whereby you arrive at the image. Replicating someone's image and taking credit for it is the most unambiguous type of plagiarism. Case closed.

    With process, i.e. Ansel's explanations of his photos, or Les McLeans's, etc. The problem is different. If someone showed you how to achieve a warmer tone in your picture, and your next portfolio does, then you've just acquired knowledge. But if you go further, and you try to replicate one's approach towards light, composition and materials, then the line between learning/imitation and plagiarism could be finer.

    There are plenty of photographic "tricks" that have been reused over and over: zooming while exposing, for instance, using a macro flash ring, etc. Some of these "tricks" are specific to certain photographers, but it would be foolish to copyright them. At the beginning, right after someone discovered such a trick, it's clear that the next photographer in line to reproduce it is probably directly copying the first photog's approach. Eventually everybody uses it, and with enough variations that it becomes just another tool of the trade.

    With computers we can go one step further: cf. the Ansel Adams filter computer program that came out. We are able to replicate a fundamental aspect of AA's photographic work. We're not just talking about an aspect of, but about the gestalt of his pictures, the look that makes one say "ha! it's AA." Yet even here, the stance taken by an artist towards this process should make a difference. If the picture is shown as the result of an original artistic quest, then it's plagiarism. If the picture is self-aware, or simply not claiming more than to be the result of a filter, it's not per se plagiarism for me.

    In the end, it leaves us only with the image as the real site of debate. Composition, subject, recognizable items. For instance, the debate here on APUG that Ara had about his shot of a woman in a bathub with a big gun, vs the one his buddy took after he heard of it. I think there are only shades of gray here between plagiarism, borrowing, and genre. Plagiarism would have been to reproduce the most important details, borrowing is to reuse some motifs, and genre is simply sharing conventional motifs.

    If you really want to debate plagiarism, in the end you have to limit yourself to what the law says, and if the law is not to your liking, you lobby your politicians to change it. My point is that plagiarism exists, is identifiable, and should be punished, but cannot be done so without taking a picture to trial. It's like the concept "obscene." You and I have probably a similar concept of obscenity, but what one of us would consider as such might differ considerably from what the other one would.
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  7. #7
    John Bartley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimgalli View Post
    ... snipped ... If I made the same picture 10 minutes later and got famous using it, is that plagiarism? Probably. ... snipped ...
    Jim,

    ( I don't think the quote is out of context, but say so if you think it is )

    It would only be plagiarism if you claimed the idea as yours excluding Juls from the credit. Taking the same picture later without giving credit to the scene composer is IMHO not plagiarism as long as you don't claim the idea as your own. The success "could" be due to your printing skills ...

    It's a fine line I know and one I would stay away from by giving credit for the compostion idea, but technically ...

    cheers

    EDIT :: - I guess MHV already said this didn't he ...
    Last edited by John Bartley; 09-21-2006 at 11:00 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: I should read all the posts first ...

  8. #8
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    By definition Plagiarism is to steal the work of another and use it as one's own. Using the same idea as another, would not be considered plagiarism, in the rhelm of nature photography, it is almost impossible to create the exact same view as another photographer, even if you stand in the same footsteps as the original photographer, due the subtle changes in light, time day, etc. Now in a controlled studio situation, it might be possible to exactly duplicate another photograph..but I would still have difficulty in saying someone plagerized my shot, when they use different equipment and such...you can't claim an idea is only your idea, because several different people at any given time in space could conceivably have the same idea....and as defined it is the act of stealing the work itself that defines the plagiarism, not the idea

    Just my .02

    Dave

  9. #9
    Aggie's Avatar
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    What this is in regards to is two seperate instances. One involved me, and the other involved another member of apug, but it was played out on another website. For me, I free gave out how I did a certain toned look that I had played with given bits of information in a workshop. It was not given to me as a complete but just as an aside of what might happen but only for spotting purposes. In the end I played with the given information and acheived a new toning look. While I admit completely it was spurred on by bits of disconnected information, I did work on that toning processs and acheive a good look. Others might have stumbled on it as well. For me I helped this individual here on apug with using the said process I came up with. They asked several quesations and worked on it with me helping as they had failures until they acheived the same look. Then that person went on to acheive a bit of notority by claiming to a large company they came up with the process and it was a new toning look. No credit was given to me or even to those who helped to influence me. That person was written up in that companies newletter that went out worldwide to photographers. Now I could care less that it is out there.
    What bothers me was the claim that said person developed and it was theirs alone.

    Second involves a type of photography that whole websites are dedicated to. On that other website two apuggers are at each other over the question of photographic plagarisim. (Yes Jim I can't spell worth a damn, that is why I have Tif around) One accusing the other of stealing their ideas. Where it is that same person who essential claimed my toning idea as their own, is now accusing another photographer of stealing their idea of how to photograph, when multitudes before them have done the exact same thing. Nothing new, just one is better at self promotion and such.

    So the real question comes down to one of ethics. When is it ethical or is it plariagarism (how ever you spell it) to take someone elses ideas and claim them as your own?
    Non Digital Diva

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aggie View Post
    So the real question comes down to one of ethics. When is it ethical or is it plariagarism (how ever you spell it) to take someone elses ideas and claim them as your own?

    It's never ethical to take some one elses work and claim it to be yours.

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