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Photographer Called Out by PhotoStealers Threatens Defamation Lawsuit

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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.

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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.

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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.

You can also visit CJ Photography’s Facebook and website by following the corresponding links, although both have been stripped down substantially since the ordeal began.

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.

(via Reddit)


 
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  • Christopher

    What is the law or standard practice as it pertains to using a purchased stock photo as an element within a composite and using the photo in one’s portfolio or online with a copyright watermark? For instance, if a photographer creates a composite of 10 photos and snapped 9 of the 10 and purchased a stock photo of the space shuttle launching to put in the sky in the background (because the space shuttle is not available to photograph) it would seem fine to use in one’s portfolio or brand for self marketing.

  • Joseph Philbert

    Purchase the correct license to do that… its still copyright infringement…

  • Christopher

    Do you mean to say it is copyright infringement WITHOUT the correct license (or the converse, it is not copyright infringement with the correct license)?

  • Joseph Philbert

    Read up on copyright infringement …if you use something in a way that its not intended for then you infringed on that person’s copyright.

  • Christopher

    Licensing & usage of single images for specific purposes is straightforward and easily understood. I’m referring specifically to the gray area of using licensed stock photos within a composite of work for which a photographer is the creator. I’m going to go straight to the source and contact stock photo agencies to get specific information as it pertains to this usage.

  • Joseph Philbert

    Ok I got you… it depends on the licensing…

  • Cynthsa

    Doesn’t contrition and/or repentance play a role in one’s forgiveness? Or is being “forgiven” carte blanc for continuing to sin? (Or, as in this case, continue to lie about practically anything and everything he thinks he can “get away with”?) I’m not a Christian, so I’m not clear on exactly what the requirements are for “forgiveness,” but I assume there must be some — otherwise there is no morality to the religion at all…. So far, it would appear that this guy’s only contrite about two things: 1) His gravy train has been derailed. And, 2) He’s not been able to bs and/or threaten his way out of his troubles. (Score one for the Interwebs, yay!)

  • Cynthsa

    Wonderfully said!

  • Cynthsa

    Good points, except: “attempting to right his wrongs”? Really — haven’t seen much evidence of that yet…. Ooops!!!

  • Cynthsa

    Huh! I thought that was just us Jews…. (Oh, wait, that was REAL persecution….) :-)

  • Cynthsa

    Frankly, I’d argue the reverse: that one of the definitions OF ”good people” is, in fact, not that they’re perfect, but that they instinctually engage in a process of contrition, repentence, etc., when realizing they’ve erred. And, not because of a book or external directive (e.g., Yom Kippur, lol!) or because they’ve been caught…… But, still, you do make a great point!!!

  • Cynthsa

    Andrea,
    I’m sorry you feel like you are getting trolled. I haven’t read every single comment yet (only to here lol), but I thought your comments stimulated some interesting and honest discussion of religious mores and values. At least, that’s how it struck me. And, that is also the spirit in which I have added my (now several) comments. It’s too bad that trolls are such a routine, if lamentable, part of online discourse these days….. I hope you’ll give them no more credence than that. And know that, speaking for myself, at least one non-Christian did appreciate your comments (even if I don’t agree with them 100%).

  • C Sab

    He’s using empty threats and scare tactics to try and get PS to forget this whole thing so he can keep scamming.

    It’s not working, and soon he’ll be out of work for good.

  • C Sab

    Nah, I bet there are plenty of Christians here, they’re just not so foolish that they let someone who has done so much deceit be forgiven so quickly just because they posted a half-ass’d apology. Plus, I’ll bet he was laughing to himself the entire time he typed it out.

  • C Sab

    Considering this affects all of us, yeah I’d say we do have the right to judge. God can judge him after death, but before death we’ll do it ourselves.

  • C Sab

    It’s funny how most of the people who keep claiming to be Christian/Catholic know absolutely nothing about the Bible.

  • C Sab

    lol It’s HIS page, and HIS contest but this wasn’t in his control nor is he the one giving the cameras out? Who is dumb enough to believe that?

  • C Sab

    I think he was joking.

  • C Sab

    Trust me, he had the chance to do it on video too. It wasn’t any better. His excuses are jumping all over the place, make no sense and they just prove he’s talking out of his ass cause he doesn’t have the guts to admit what he did and give back what he stole (the money people donated to him.)

  • Joseph Philbert

    Personally if someone came to me and wanted to donate several cameras there would be paperwork and a agreement.. Also follow up with all winners..then make it a blog post.
    Even if he wanted to be anonymous fine but know who you working with. BTW Canon would never do this.

    Its a scam plane and simple no one works this way.

  • C Sab

    Just cause you’re giving your honest “opinion” doesn’t mean you’re right. ;) Your comments have been amusing though.

  • C Sab

    Yeah, that’s another thing. There’s no way Canon would donate 10 cameras to a “professional photographer” that has nothing to his name/career other than a Facebook page.

  • C Sab

    Who wants to bet “goldenthorus” is either CJ or one of his friends trying (and hilariously failing) to defend him?

  • Joseph Philbert

    They do that every few days … but he has gotten smart and remove post on both his fanpage and personal page and basically shut up about it. so now it has died down.
    Honestly I will be watching to see what happens on the 31st

  • C Sab

    I might have missed something, what happens on the 31st?

    I wouldn’t call that smart though.

  • Joseph Philbert

    His Camera Giveaway.

  • C Sab

    Oh, that should be interesting.

  • Marcus Sudjojo

    What I’m wondering is, take the above example picture (the ‘sunrise at 7:30′ one), say I got the proper licensing from the stock website. So I took the image, color-edit it, and put an object in the foreground (the standing woman). Maybe I didn’t go as far as posting the following comment, ‘the sun at 7:30 is awesome, this is a test shot’ or something like that. Would it still be legitimate to put that in my photography portfolio and claim it as ‘my picture’?

    Personally, I don’t think that counts as ‘my picture’, as all I did was photoshop a woman in the picture, and color-edit it. Not if my context is as a photographer. If my context is a digital-retoucher, then it’d be legit.

    But that’s my personal opinion, so I’m asking, what is the proper perception on this?

  • Joseph Philbert

    What he did was wrong … he should have simply said it was a composite. He did not even have to say where the background was from. If he sold it … he is wrong because of license agreements.
    The deceptive description was the REDFLAG more than anything else, because people were hiring him the shoot those images.

  • Chris Pickrell

    Touche :D

  • Chris Pickrell

    That’s because they don’t have it on their iPad yet.

  • Marcus Sudjojo

    Yes, my thought exactly.

    If I, as a photographer, put that composite in my portfolio picture, and claim it as ‘my picture’, then it’d have implied (although not written) that:
    - I (or my company) took the picture with a camera
    - I set up the whole photoshoot, including finding the location, standing by at the exact moment (perfect light), hiring the model to shoot at the location, etc.

    Of course what I’m hoping is that potential customers would look at the picture and say something like, ‘Hey this guy can organize a beautiful photoshoot and produce this amazing picture. Let’s hire him’ Well, perhaps that’s what CJ was hoping for.

    On another note, I think it’s kinda good thing that photostealer caught him first. If it’s a paying customer, and later that customer found out what photostealer found, then lawsuits would’ve come to CJ’s way….

  • C Sab

    Wouldn’t surprise me.

  • Storage Needed

    The newest interview and for a chance to win a car is on the CJ photostealers post!

  • VanessaG

    You are so right, I paid around $225 for a photographer and did not get what was advertised. I’ll never pay an independent photographer again. I think this girl was money hungry and only does what is advertised for her “rich” clients. I was told I would get two wardrobe changes, only got one. I was told that since I didn’t get everything I paid for there would be a second shoot. There wasn’t she used a series of poses that were taken within minutes of each other to fill the 50 image promise. NEVER AGAIN. If you go to her website you see gorgeous images with a lot of time put into editing. It was obvious we did not get the same dedication. That is a lot of money to spend, so naturally, I felt very robbed.
    You’re doing nothing wrong at all, the people being exposed are the wrong doers.

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    thief

  • Anon

    You see, what you people who are saying “leave him alone, all he did was take credit for composites that weren’t his” don’t know is, you have NO idea what he was into. He found my ad looking for a roommate and tried to move in with me while he was scamming hundreds maybe even thousands of the 80k followers he had, claiming his “gear had been stolen” and he “needed donations” while showing me paypal statements where thousands were coming in! He was running a scam for the last 3-4 months on many people, y’all get the facts!

  • Anon

    He told me he received a graphic arts degree in six months. Now, he is a liar so I don’t know if that’s true. BUT the issue at hand, for me, anyway, is not the composites (even though that is stealing others’ work) but instead the thousands of dollars he received in donations for a “stolen camera,” and all the fake giveaways he did. He’s a scam artist.

  • http://www.korioi.net/ Korios

    Please kill the god card; it is irrelevant here and only makes you seem like an imbecile.

  • Andrea Townsley

    Definitely not irrelevant when I was responding to someone else who brought it up to question why Christians may be defending him or *gasp* forgiving him. And unlike many others, I choose not to sink to the level of name-calling or low blows. God bless.

  • tracey

    Not really understanding why you care so much??? And to take this much time to write all this up. I wish I had this much free time on my hands. As 1 business owner to another. Slander isn’t cool. Worry about your business and it will be successful.

  • Chantal Smithless

    Okay I have read everyone’s arguments and name calling. If I were a photographer it seems simple enough to me. It’s called a watermark. Your photos can still be shared but no one can copy/download them for any specific “use” because the watermark “ruins” it for them.

    Is that so complicated? Sheesh!

  • rthki

    Watermarks could still potentially be cropped out edited out.

  • http://nickyjameson.com/ Nicky Jameson

    Bob, everyone trying to convince Andrea… don’t waste your time. No matter what you say there will be an answer and it’s a circular argument with no ending except to derail the conversation into a Xtian cul-de-sac. He could be an axe-murderer 10x over, the argument would be the same. Tp Photostealers – keep up the good work calling out those who think it is ok to take the work of others and/or misrepresent themselves until they are caught.

  • GerardoandBrooke Guzman

    I use to follow this guy thinking HE was Amamzing!!!! And i loved the passion he said to of have toward photography. The only reason i heard of him was because of the camera getting stolen or whatever. I myself REALLY did get mine stolen but i figure their was nothing anyone can really do! Its a camera not my life and for that i am thankful. So after hearing what had happen to this guy i was inspired in a way! along came Black Friday! I decided to finance a Canon 60D. Have now been taking pics for about 5 months and NEVER did i once accept ANYTHING or caused pity for someone to give me donations! Once i heard about this guy being a cheat i was surprise of how low sometimes people can be! Please i hope whoever reads this to have dignity and self worth to NOT do what this guy did!

  • name

    There is nothing wrong with using stock images to create an interesting composite and image, the issue lies in his LIE that they were his images and thus promoting himself to clients as able to capture the same quality SOOC. If he had been forthcoming and said he had taken the clients images then used the stock providers to composite an even more amazing shot for them, then no harm done providing that he lists and credited the stock providers as well. I can see why he is suing and I can see why PS called him out as well. I can understand both sides, PS sees it as stealing because he claimed them as his own, the artist sees it as defamation BECAUSE he did have permission to use them. guess we will have to see what the courts think

  • aphoto4you

    EXCUSE ME !! Either is 9 or 1 it’s called STOLEN

  • aphoto4you

    You don’t wish your name exposed then don’t steal don’t steal 1 or 9 or more ….once you stole 1 you stole them all …no I won’t give credit. To MR.jones ….he stole at least one ..timeline that exposed him is in right ….I hate thieves