Student Wins Photography Contest with Filched Photo

ScreenHunter_147 Sep. 24 12.24

It’s one thing to swipe a photo and slap it on your website, and quite another to enter that stolen image into a high-profile photo contest passed off as your own work.

That is exactly what Mark Joseph Solis, a graduate student at the University of the Philippines, is discovering as he becomes a subject of international ridicule for winning several thousand dollars worth of prizes with a purloined portrait.

Last week, Solis was declared the winner of the Smiles of the World photo contest sponsored by the Chilean Embassy. He snagged $1,000 and roundtrip tickets from the Philippines to Chile and Brazil for a heartwarming image of a smiling Filipino boy with seaweed on his head.

Until, that is, Gregory J. Smith, founder of the Children at Risk Foundation, recognized the image as one he captured in 2006 and shared — all rights reserved — on Flickr. Smith immediately notified the embassy and suggested that the prize be re-awarded to his foundation:

ScreenHunter_149 Sep. 24 12.39

So far, what Smith has gotten is widespread expressions of shock and embarrassment (sample Flickr comment: “Mark Solis, If I were in your shoes, I wish I would be dead…”) and a letter of apology from Solis, who blamed the incident on “my youth, lack of experience, and the inability to see the repercussions of my actions.”

The Chilean Embassy revoked the prize from Solis, threatened to sue him and says it is re-evaluating submissions to re-award the prize.

Meanwhile, online sleuths have found numerous instances of Solis filching from Flickr to enter contests (one of which he won), including another contest where he entered the same photo that won the Chilean prize — with the subject in that case identified as Indian.

“The guy obviously has an insatiable appetite for infringing copyrighted material without any scruples,” Smith told GMA News. “I have taken note of his apologies and remorse, but I myself am a man of action, so I would like to see Solis translate his words into some solid action to benefit the children he has so irresponsibly abused.”

Solis’ major, by the way: political science.

(via GMA News and Rappler)

  • Francis Vachon

    A quick Google Image reverse search before declaring a winner should be mandatory for contest organizer…

  • Dave Reynolds

    When will photo competitions add “check Google Images” as part of the judging process?

  • A_Lwin

    Google reverse image search, Tineye, RAW metadata checks, etc. should be strictly mandatory.

  • byoung328

    I actually tried that, and the only time the image came up was in articles related to this plagiarism. Tineye doesn’t find it at all.

  • Mark Anthony Artes Sola

    Apparently as Technology progresses and some are left behind. Everyone ought to be educated specially the judges in the photo contests such as these.

    That’s why On the Spot Photo contest is still the best IMO.

  • Rena

    The prize should go to the second placed image. Giving it to someone who did not participate in the contest, no matter how good his intentions, is equally wrong as to image theft.

  • Alex Minkin

    yeah. no. not even close. equating image theft with donating money to an organization? beyond absurd. And since this organization WAS participating in the contest, though without their knowledge, why shouldn’t they get it anyways? Their picture won, no matter who submitted it.

  • Tvb009

    Plagiarism and image theft is wrong. The attempt by Mr. Gregory Smith to hijack the prize for his foundation is just as wrong as what Mr. Solis did. Both actions have their roots in greed. The prize should go to the contest runner-up.

  • ramanauskas

    Uh, no. Smith’s photo won the contest. It would not be wrong to award the prize to Smith, nor is the the suggestion that they do so “greedy”, much less “just as wrong” as Solis’ outright theft of Smith’s work. You need to do some serious thinking about your ethics.

    (intended as reply to Tvb009)

  • Larry

    Google image search works very well. I’ve found images on Google that I don’t find on Tineye.

  • Joe Peek

    It’s a shame really, because the more cases like this that keep arising, the end result will probably be a decline in photo competitions. The hosts of the competitions end up getting just as much bad press as the thief. There ought to be a website where photo thieves are publicly named and shamed, that way potential employers and competition judges can do a quick search. If they’re on there, don’t employ them/allow them to enter. Simple.

  • Trythe1

    There is a website… it’s called petapixel lol

  • Sir Stewart Wallace

    Because the organization was not participating in it. Regardless of where the image came from, the person participating was the offender. When you disqualify first, second place automatically becomes first, third becomes second, and so on. While I appreciate the intentions of the defendant, neither he, nor anybody with proper access to the image submitted it.

    Though, I do believe the offender should be reprimanded and the defendant possibly rewarded, at the very least.

  • Rena

    What you say is the same as:

    “Well, the numbers I always play won the lottery. I didn’t play those numbers this time, but they ARE my numbers, so I must get the prize”

    Yes, it was their image that won, but they didn’t participate. They didn’t accept the terms before winning, they didn’t do anything (besides making the actual picture). So, even I didn’t read the rules of the contest, the picture should be disqualified for a number of reasons.

    What Mr. Smith should do now is start using the picture in future contests.

  • Mark Anthony Artes Sola

    One thing, the winning picture is not even taken in the Philippines as the photo contests agreement that the image(s) be entered are taken exclusively in the Philippines. No matter what the intentions of the original owner of the prize money, the rulings still goes to the organizers favor.

  • Mark Anthony Artes Sola

    True! Whatever his intentions are may be good or bad is still wrong! He might be the victim but the rulings are still of the organizers. Even on the technical side he will never get the prize.

  • Alex Minkin

    its more like someone stole your lottery ticket and then saying you don’t get the money. close, but not quite.

  • Alex Minkin

    this is also precluding the notion that contest authorities could give both second place the first place prize, and make a charitable donation, which would be a classy act.

  • LOL

    Let’s make him famous for his doings. According to gmanetwork responds, he is a repeat offender.

  • Norshan Nusi

    Googled his name, found his FB instead.

  • h

    “So far, what Smith has gotten is widespread expressions of shock and embarrassment (sample Flickr comment: “Mark Solis, If I were in your shoes, I wish I would be dead…”) and a letter of apology from Solis, who blamed the incident on “my youth, lack of experience, and the inability to see the repercussions of my actions.” Blaming something on ‘youth’ isn’t good enough. I am considered as a young person and i can guarantee i would never even dream of doing something like this and i can’t think of anyone else that would either. He should just admit that he is a cheat and a liar without ruining peoples perceptions of young people.

  • h

    “Yes, it was their image that won, but they didn’t participate. They didn’t accept the terms before winning, they didn’t do anything (besides making the actual picture)” Huh? It’s a photography competition, surely the picture is the only thing that matters…

  • loonie

    funny! winning these competitions at this point really is like winning the lottery. unless they are rigged. but not all are.

  • McGraffix

    So are you actually suggesting rewarding the prize to the picture itself? How would you go about that :s? Pictures don’t take themselves or enter themselves in contests.
    Or you’re saying that it doesn’t matter WHO sent in the picture, as IT wins? That would mean awarding the prize to the submissor, in this case the guy that used another person’s copyrighted material without his consent. I would hope you would not condone that?

    I agree with the above notion: disqualification and moving second place up to first. That’s what happens in most competitions.

  • A_Lwin

    I hope whatever education institution he is studying at takes note of his act and expel him.

  • Chris

    maybe they should do some verification like, i’m not sure but is photos from camera has attritbutes? like camera model

    or better yet have a raw photo data or something like that,

  • Robert

    Handing in the RAW file to contests should be mandatory – much harder to fake.

  • Bill E. Lytton

    But technically, his picture won the competition.

  • Roland Fontilla Jr.

    Yup.. a 4time offender.. If Mr Smith had not noticed it.. HE, Mark Joseph Solis, would still steal from Flickr. A sad day for legit Filipino Photographers, that a non-photographer and a Filipino at that would do such a UNFORGIVABLE thing.

    He made a fool in all of us…and he capitalized it.

  • Rena

    Not quite. If you want to be that specific, you can say that I used YOUR numbers and won.

  • Rena

    Not quite, also. The picture did not enter the competition by itself. The owner of the copywrite should have entered it. Something he did not.

  • Rena

    Yes! But those acts are two diferent ones. Se second place IS now the first place. The choise to donate it’s an entirely second action that the Chilean Embassy have the option to take. But it is not an obligation.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Asking that they use the image and award the prize money to the foundation is brilliant. If the image IS being used for the intended purpose, somebody needs to be paid for its use (the photographer) so he is saying donate that to his foundation. The image is being used for advertising the sponsors were going to use it for…already…..

  • JM

    The contest wasn’t solely a photo contest either. There was also an essay and interview portion so, no the image owner should not move into first place.

  • Anonymoused

    There are terms and conditions one must agree upon before submitting to a contest. Some contests have fees, etc. This person was not participating in the contest and did not agree to any terms. They do not deserve the prize.

  • reddfrog

    He’s from the University of the Philippines, alma mater of corrupt politicians. They will award him with a doctorate degree.

  • jerichomontes

    That’s why it is a must for every photographer to add their name in every photo they take.

  • peterblaise

    Image sharing sites strip meta-data even though it is part of the international copyright intellectual property of the image file, so the owner’s info is not available after upload.

    Watermarks are strippable, cropable, and change and compromise the image.

    Until all software and web sites respect and maintain the integrity of all IP Intellectual Property metadata information, there is no way around what happened here.

    Can you imagine Amazon removing the author info from their downloadable electronic books?

    Photographs get no respect.