Many of you are familiar with the website PhotoStealers, which acts as “a wall of shame… dedicated to photographers that feel that it’s okay to steal others work and post it as their own.” Photo theft is expertly weeded out and exposed by the site’s creator, who has taken on some big names including Jasmine Star and Doug Gordon.
The most recent PhotoStealers post, however, might reach even more epic proportions than the Star/Gordon shame-fest. It involves one Christopher Jones of CJ Photography and, before long, might involve a defamation lawsuit as well.
The entire saga began on December 20th, when PhotoStealers pointed out that many of the photographs posted on the CJ Photography website were, in fact, composites made using stock photos. Captions such as “I would say the sunrise at 7:30 with the storm moving in was pretty awesome … This was actually a test shot” adorned photos that, it was showed, were never actually photographed by Mr. Jones.
That’s when things began to get confusing. Jones removed many of the offending photos and responded to the allegations by admitting that they were composites, lamenting that he hadn’t been more transparent about this, and explaining that he also mistakenly licensed the stock photos incorrectly, although he did pay for them. He also said that ONLY the 9 images exposed by PhotoStealers were, indeed, composites — the rest were his own work.
PhotoStealers wasn’t satisfied, neither with the explanation nor the claim that only those 9 were a problem. In short order, more photos were shown to be composite images and CJ Photography’s excuses were made to seem less-than-adequate.
That brings us to the legal chapter in the story. In copyright disputes as in grief, it seems that denial is followed by anger and bargaining. PhotoStealers received a long Facebook message threatening two lawsuits: one for the defamation caused by the site AND its commenters, a few of which, according to PS, have also been contacted and threatened by Jones or his lawyer; and another if PhotoStealers dared to post the content of the threatening message online.
As you might imagine, given that we’re reporting on it, PhotoStealers dared.
With that, we have arrived at the present moment. Of course, every story has two sides, and we’ll leave it up to you to decide which side has the right of it or if the truth sits somewhere in between. You can find all of PhotoStealers’ accusations and proof here, and Jones’ long-form detailed response to the accusations (which includes receipts and correspondence with Shutterstock) here.
And, finally, once you’ve done your due diligence, don’t forget to drop us a line and let us know what you think about the whole debacle. Whatever the case may be, it seems Mr. Jones’ photography career is essentially over. Does he deserve this? Was it all an overreaction? Share your thoughts in the comments down below.