Widespread photo theft springs up in wake of Boston Marathon bombings


posted Monday, April 22, 2013 at 3:25 PM EDT

After last week's horrific attacks at the Boston Marathon, and the subsequent revelations of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as prime suspects, people scrabbled to gather any and all sources of information about what had happened during the explosions and who these young men were. And because of this, image rights seem to have been widely ignored for the purpose of either tracking down more information, or simply making a buck.

In 2010, Boston University journalism student Johannes Hirn shot a photo-essay of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, which he had up on his photography website. Called Will Box For Passport, the photo essay talked about Tamerlan Tsarnaev's training in boxing, his Olympic hopes, and his interactions with other people. However, multiple media outlets used the images and text from this photo essay without permission or attribution, forcing Hirn to pull the images from the site, according to PDN. While many of the images have already gone viral, at least this should halt other people continuing to lift the images, and Hirn is now licensing the photos through Barcroft Media.

Even more egregious due to its base nature, is the case of an unauthorized book of images from the initial attack, which popped up just days after the explosions. Spotted by the NPPA, the ebook "Boston Bombing (First Photos)," was uploaded to the Amazon Kindle marketplace by "author" Steve Goldstein, who was charging $7.99 for a collection of images that were not his own. It included more than 60 photos from the Associated Press, Getty, New York Times and others who were on the scene and able to record the tragic events that occurred. Goldstein appears to have just wholesale stolen these images, compiled them, and put them online in order to make a quick profit. Amazon quickly pulled the book, but it's not known how many copies were sold. It looks like Goldstein has since closed his author account on Amazon, as none of the other works by him that the NPPA describe seem to be available, either.

An Amazon screenshot of the unauthorized book

Stolen photos are by no means a new occurrence, as demonstrated by recent online discussions of image theft over at Instagram, and blogs such as Stop Stealing Photos. But there's something about it happening in the wake of a tragedy like this that makes it just that more despicable. Images of the attack swiftly spread over social media, and in situations like that it's very easy for the rights of the original photographers to be lost in the shuffle.