UK Magazine Blames Stock Photo Site for Stolen Photo Used on Cover

UK Magazine Blames Stock Photo Site for Stolen Photo Used on Cover

Prominent photographer Nadav Kander recently found his portrait of David Lynch on the cover of UK magazine The Big Issue. The problem is he never provided the portrait that was used and the image looks to be a photograph of his photograph which was purchased on stock photo site Alamy.

Copyright theft is becoming bigger and more problematic for photographers and other artists with the internet free-for-all that search engines help perpetuate and the lack of understanding of the general public who don’t work in the art space. That should be where this story would end, but it seems that magazines, stock photo sites, and even other photographers posting work that is not their own are profiting from copyright theft.

This past week, the UK magazine The Big Issue released their newest issue with a cover image portrait of David Lynch. The original image was taken by Nadav Kander with his prominent lighting and personal techniques on full display. The image that The Big Issue used is allegedly a photo of a photo that was taken by another photographer where the portrait was on display at a gallery. This photo of the original portrait was then allegedly placed on the stock photography site Alamy where The Big Issue magazine purports to have purchased the photo from.

Going down the rabbit hole and some sleuthing does bring up the Alamy image that was previously being sold by a photographer with shadows being cast across the framed portrait and the black frame and wall the image is hung from in the photo itself. The cover image has been cropped in, presumably by someone from The Big Issue’s art department, to remove the wall and frame, but the shadows are still viewable in the cover image. I would believe that an art department worth their salt would have seen the original image in the cover prep and removed it from consideration, but there could have been other considerations that did not allow this to go noticed.

The Big Issue did respond to Nadav Kander on instagram with a comment that states:

[Kander], we’re very sorry you feel aggrieved. This image was sourced by the art team. They discovered it on Alamy. It’s a great image that we felt would help move the magazine.

It seems that The Big Issue is attempting to lay blame on the stock site Alamy rather than having a higher expectation of their art department when sourcing imagery. Kander also added in his statement on Instagram that the photographer who allegedly sold the image on Alamy states on their site that permission should be sought before using their work.

The Big Issue was contacted for comment but has yet to respond at the time this article was written.

Copyright infringement can happen to anyone whether a small town photographer or a national portrait artist. Whether you are the former or latter and in the USA, check out the CASE Act that is working its way through Congress and reach out to your state representatives to put your support behind your copyright protection.

Lastly, how do you feel about this sort of image theft and those who profit from it? Let us know in the comments below.

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55 Comments

Previous comments
JT Blenker's picture

I responded above as well and I dislike the idea of not holding an organization responsible for the actions that they themselves should if they are abiding by their own values and ethics statement. Would condoning theft because the perpetrator was a benefit to disadvantaged in society be a reasonable argument to allow them to not take responsibility? Does that not lower the value of the work that is being stolen from an individual by a multi-million dollar charity?

JT, I'm not sure you're right on that. You can see their income and expenditure on page 22 of the PDF I linked above.

The income is £1.12m, their expenditure is £1.02m. They definitely are not a 'multi-million dollar charity'.

This is how the pay structure works for the homeless vendors - they buy the number of magazines they think they can sell for half the price they sell it for, and keep the profit. It's the point of "a hand up, not a hand out", it gives them independence and removes the stigma of begging. The other £1.25 covers the cost of editorial, production, distribution and the vendor support staff. This is a magazine that depends on people like Lynch, Ian McKellen or Armando Iannucci donating their time to help the homeless.

I also feel you've been quite unfair with partially quoting their comment on Instagram. The full one is as follows, and I think reads quite differently to just the first sentence:

Hi Nadav, we’re very sorry you feel aggrieved. This image was sourced by the art team. They discovered it on Alamy. It’s a great image that we felt would help move the magazine. We told Alamy what we were doing and neither tried to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes nor get away without paying.

The first we discovered about the issues with the image was when your agency got in touch at the start of the week. Clearly, Alamy have some explaining to do. We would never intentionally do this. As an organisation that serves the complex needs of thousands of our vendors each year, we understand the need to meet emotional distress with sensitivity. We hope this goes some way to explaining the situation. If you would like to discuss further, please DM us.

Logan Cressler's picture

Alamy is 100% at fault. Produce the model release, or saddle up. Alamy at that time may choose to go after the user that uploaded it as a breach of contract.

They ask for a model release for a reason. They didnt check, and they sold it anyway. They are 100% at fault legally. Its up to them if they want to go after the original thief or not.

If they can produce the model release for the photo, then it was fraudulent and no longer the fault of Alamy, IMO, and is solely on the shoulders of the original thief.

I do not believe the magazine is at fault. When you buy stock photography, you are depending on the site you use to ensure they truly are what they say they are. Perhaps they didnt use much discretion, but that is not on them at all. The blame rests on the thief and Alamy for selling before verifying.

Alamy is at fault, and they can take up their own issues with the uploader as a breach of contract between them. Good thing Alamy has insurance.

Scott Spellman's picture

This is clearly a copyright violation and both Almay and the Big Issue are at fault and should pay for it. Management at both companies is responsible for avoiding these mistakes. Second-please fix the spelling errors in the article, It makes Fstoppers look sloppy too.

JT Blenker's picture

I found two letter “m”s in the first paragraph. Anywhere else?

Logan Cressler's picture

I don't understand how the magazine is at fault when they bought the image in good faith from a reputable stock site, that sold it as a licensed image for that use. Are you saying that from here on out, it is the job of every single person that buys a stock photo to independently verify that the image is indeed sold and licensed? If so, exactly what is the purpose of the stock sites going forward? You go to a stock site to buy an image because they handle the licensing from the photographer.

Alamy is at fault, not the magazine.

If you are saying that everyone that buys a stock image is liable, then that completely kills stock photo sites.

That's like Ford using a patented technology (that is not theirs) in one of their vehicles, and you asserting that everyone that bought a truck with that infringement is also liable. No way man, only the actual people that infringe are. Is everyone that bought a VW that cheated the emissions test liable for VW's cheating?

Nothing in our society works the way you are claiming it should work.

JT Blenker's picture

That’s not exactly how that works. Any entity selling stolen work, in this case IP, would be at fault for the theft and restitution of that IP. You are talking about a sale to the final end consumer which is not in line with the B2B selling here.

I.e. I take music and put it on a stock music hub. That music is sold via the stock hub. I take a cut and the stock site takes a cut. The purchaser puts the music into a movie as the lead soundtrack to the film. Does the artist in this case only go after the stock site? No. They go after any commercial entity that did not do their due diligence to appropriate the music from the original composer.

Dan Howell's picture

past relationship with Alamy and other stock libraries over numerous occasions can constitute due diligence. it is entirely conceivable that the photo staff has successfully purchased celebrity material from Alamy and Getty in the past without issue. So many people here are quick to jump on the magazine. I wonder if those people have actually experienced working with them.

JT Blenker's picture

The image sold is below at the link and is linked in the article but it’s a good idea to see what the image looked like when bought. In defense, you may cite past experience but to say that an image to go to cover is cropped in such a way to omit the photo-within-a-photo aspect would have a tough time evading the due diligence that a magazine would require with sign offs when designing a cover.

https://c8.alamy.com/comp/CFFH0W/david-lynch-print-exhibition-art-artwor...

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I never worked with them. I don't do stock, no interest, not my market. So what ever happen there is strictly business and if I see one of my pictures sold and used, who ever publish it is who I will go after. Not worth my time to chase all parties when they can do that for me.

Logan Cressler's picture

The magazine is the final end customer in this situation.

JT Blenker's picture

Nope. The end customer would be the purchaser of the magazine.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

True, but the reader/purchaser has nothing to do with the production.

JT Blenker's picture

... and therefore as the consumer would not be liable. Logan was making an argument but the similarities were not equal. The main point is the business parties in the copyright infringement were using the image to make money.

Logan Cressler's picture

This can really be summed up pretty easy with possession of stolen property. If you buy something that was stolen and have no reasonable means to deduce that it was stolen, technically you have broken the law, however, you generally will not be prosecuted beyond having that property confiscated to be returned to the rightful owner. The person that sold it to you, as well as the person that stole it, are at fault.

If however, you could have known that it was stolen, then you may be prosecuted.

It is entirely unreasonable to expect ANYONE that purchases stock photography from a reputable site to have any expectation other than it is legal to use for the purposes they paid for it.

At most, this is yet another example of why companies should not use stock photography.

Logan Cressler's picture

Also, as in my auto example, in that case, are all the private dealerships that are not FORD specifically, just Joe Bob used cars or whatever, would then they be liable? They are selling the vehicles and are not the end consumer. No, they would not be. Ford would be solely liable for the theft of the IP.

In the same way here.

Scott Spellman's picture

The magazine is at fault because the graphic designer knowingly took a photo of artwork displayed at a gallery, and cropped it down for cover use. Almay is to blame for not reviewing their Images for obvious violations. This is no different than taking a photo of the Mona Lisa and putting it on a magazine cover. The magazine can't hide behind a model release from a stock company when even a simple Google search would show you don't have the original image or permission from the owner.

Logan Cressler's picture

I suppose it would be up to a judge to say if it was reasonable that they knew it was a famous photo that was likely not legit.

I bet they had no clue. I am a photographer and I have never seen that photo before or heard of that photographer, I highly doubt whatever Millenial college kid they have working in the art department knew it was anything more than a photo bought, with a commercial use license, on a reputable stock site. You can find celebrity photos by the truckload on any stock website, and I just checked on Alamy, yep, tons of photos of everyone. Until now I would have just assumed they were legit, but seeing this now, I see many that there is no way that photographer has a model release for and it is a photo of a photo. Alamy is to blame for selling stolen merchandise, the magazine is nearly a second victim of the theft.

They didnt "take" anything. They BOUGHT a stock photo WITH A LICENSE, cropping in has nothing to do with it, you are allowed to crop in on stock photos all you want after you buy them.

It honestly, in the US, comes down to if the judge believes they, in good faith, knew they had stolen images, and used it anyway. If so, they are also at fault. If not, they are not at fault.

But who knows how the courts work in the UK.

Chris Slasor's picture

Does anybody proof read these pieces before they are published?

"The problem is he never provided the portrait that was usedm and the image looks to be a photograph of his photographm which was purchased on stock photo site Alamy."

I’m unfamiliar with UK/EU law. In the US, ALL parties in the stream of the unlicensed exploitation usage could be liable for copyright infringement (notwithstanding Fair Use exceptions): The person who uploaded the image to Alamy; Almay Stock for licensing the image; “The Big Issue” magazine (and its publisher) for reproducing it; and potentially others.

Kevin Harding's picture

Note to JT Blenker. The Big Issue is a charity magazine for the homeless (and you should know that before leaving that important information out of your article) that is designed to not only bring attention to their plight but provide some much needed income for some of them. It most certainly won't have an 'Art Dept worth it's salt'.

The issue is undoubtedly with the tog who stole it and posted it on Alamy. The owner should go after him for all he's worth. I'm not so sure however that much blame can be attached to someone likely giving up their free time to work on The Big Issue (which is distributed for £1 per copy, on the street by homeless people) if I'm honest. They likely had no idea it was stolen when buying it from Alamy.

I dont see anything that was stolen in the so called offending image.

I find it curious that you identify the accomplices, Alamy and the Big Issue, but you fail to identify the thief. The “photographer” who took the photo of Kander’s picture and then peddled it to Alamy is the one who initiated this whole chain of events and should be identified. But for his actions, none of this would have happened so why shield his identity?

Christine Deschaseaux's picture

Stocks like Alamy could reverse search photos before buying them, to check their rights, just like Youtube does with Content-ID.
The technology of content-ID for images already exists: www.IMATAG.com hides a unique identifier in an invisible watermark.
We have already proven its robustness in a similar case where a watermarked print was photographed : the ID was still detected in the copy!

What kind of photographer photographs another photographers image and puts it up for sale?
An unoriginal non-creative thief!