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Stolen Photo Stirs Controversy After Winning Samsung’s Contest

By Jules Ebe on August 23rd 2013


In an image-inundated society, sometimes people forget that the picture you are looking at on Facebook or Instagram began somewhere. With all these images flooding the internet, image theft has become quite common. We have even suffered a little intellectual property theft ourselves.

The most recent theft to cause a stir in the photographic community relates to the recent winner of the Samsung’s ‘#Live in the Moment’ Instagram contest.

Instagram user @bogdhan (who has since changed his moniker to @thethieff) took an image from a very well known photographer, Hengki Koentjoro, flipped it, cropped some and added a filter to make it “his”.

Voilá – instant winning photo.

Facebook post from original artist.

Facebook post from original artist.

A month later, a friend informed Koentjoro of the copyright infringement, in which he immediately took the case to Samsung’s social network sites. After all, that is where the winner was announced, so it only made sense for that to be where the record was set straight.

Fans poured support out, Samsung apologized and recanted the contest ‘winner’ (and first place prize). The thief continues to claim the image is his own and deletes any comments that state otherwise on his IG feed.


According to Image and View, Dr. Robert Tobin and Hitoshi Ohashi of the TobinOhashi Gallery, the artist’s representatives, has stated that Samsung has not done enough to rectify the situation for the artist or his fans.

Just deleting the picture, sending a kind mail to the original photographer and hoping that ‘everything is alright now’ is not enough.

Stolen photo still on IG under new name with winning announcement.

Stolen photo still on IG under new name with winning announcement.

Ohashi goes on to state that “they have stolen the baby of a wonderful hardworking artist. He has been so generous in sharing his work with everyone and one of the results is that people see his work. I would never expect someone to rip it off.”

The outrage over the audacity and disregard for a respected artist is definitely not likely to calm down anytime soon. That is, until a more formal address of the issue is made.

What are your thoughts on how Samsung addressed the theft and lack of verification before awarding a prize?

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules

Credits: Images from Image and View and the artist, Hengki Koentjoro.


is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.


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  1. theo

    there are services out there to help protect your work..they can tell you who and what is using your image.

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  2. sergio pizzolante

    I made a screencapture of this guy claiming to be a grandmother with a picture of “herself”. please let me know how to uploaded to this thread, this kid (or whomever it is), its certifiably NUTS!

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  3. Pat

    Watermark heavily. Yes, it sort of detracts from the picture, but it’s the only real protection against this kind of people.

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  4. Anna

    Perhaps a digital watermark? They may be costly, but it will follow the image wherever it goes. Even if the guy knows Photoshop, he wouldn’t be able to remove the digital tag.

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  5. Sandy D

    I was lucky enough to have a pic chosen by a University of Florida art student run across one of my shots I took in Alaska of a huge glacier breaking off. She managed to find me..(thank you internet), and asked my permission to do a mosaic of it! So there are honest artist out there!

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  6. Yan

    He said he respected the rules… and he did. Nowhere does it say that the photo you submit has to be yours. Next time Samsung should be a tad clearer.

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  7. Hal Hagy

    Watermarks are not worth their hype. The way to go is a full copyright of each photo or a collection of you photos and having them on record at the library of congress. I’ve been doing this since the mid eighties, when I was a corporate shooter and a freelance editorial shooter. It will payoff if one of your images is used without your permission for an ad or in some other situation that has been brought to your attention. The corporate world frowns on the theft of intellectual property and therefore supports the copyright laws. One of the few instances where corporations give a flying leap about small business unless it’s one of their vendors.

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  8. Josh Blaha

    I would have thought that if you were running a contest like this that you would at least verify the owner. That’s not always possible, but at least running it through Google Image Search or Tineye would have been a start.

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  9. natalie W.

    one word……WATERMARK. :)

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    • Susane G

      Natalie, I agree – I watermark all my images even if they are just candid shots. Especially with my grandchildren. Sad though that someone uses another’s work to win a contest.

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    • Shannon G

      A watermark wouldn’t have stopped this…pretty sure if the dude knows photoshop, he also knows how to get rid of a watermark. It’s not that difficult. :)

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    • Bart

      Also — I sort of hate watermarks….I don’t watermark mine, mostly because I don’t like seeing words on pictures. I totally understand why a lot (most?) photographers do it, but I find it distracting and don’t enjoy mine or their pictures as much if there is a watermark.

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    • Clint Latham

      Anyone with a decent set of photoshop skills can remove a water mark in a matter of mins. For me watermarking ruins good images and it makes you no safer from theft

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    • Jiri Ruzek

      Watermark is not a solution. It is harder to steel it, but very often you can crop it in a minute, clone from another part of the photo and so …

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  10. Kim van Vuuren

    The google+ community came out in force against this very same incident over the past week. On one hand it makes the photographer in me want to remove all my content from social media or slap a huge copyright watermark all over it, but on the other hand the part of me that wants to share my work and “get it out into the world” doesn’t want to.
    The debate on google+ included things like do you delete your EXIF data or keep it and I suppose it’s really up to the individual how you mark or don’t mark your work when you put it online. I do feel however that Samsung should have done more to rectify the situation especially because the original artist notified them. It’s not about the original artist wanting to win a competition (as bogdan argues) it’s about having your artwork stolen and passed off as someone else’s, it’s fraud in the most blatant form.

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    • TONY

      being a struggling photographer well you know with all the PTBD out their, I have to share my work not just for marketing ,But for others intake as well as i love to share.. I look at this sichuation like this. I someone stole one of my photos and it was all over the net.. I would probably thank the thief. After letting the contest runners know that the image was indeed stolen. I think something like this would draw more people to my site and get me exposure i probably could not Buty.. so I guess it sucks but also helps too …Just a thought

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