New stamps spark theft, mistaken bird identity claims

Screen capture of the new bird stamps promotional posters on the Stamp Philately Pos Malaysia Facebook page before it was removed on October 31, 2013.
Screen capture of the new bird stamps promotional posters on the Stamp Philately Pos Malaysia Facebook page before it was removed on October 31, 2013.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 — Pos Malaysia’s promotional poster of its latest stamp series on birds has unleashed an online storm with a Filipino photographer alleging that the image of one had been lifted for use without his permission.

Romy Ocon, who had stumbled upon ‪Pos Malaysia’s promotional poster on the soon-to-be-released stamps, was further horrified to find that the bird picture he said bore an uncanny resemblance to one he had snapped, to be wrongly labelled, adding insult to injury over the intellectual property theft.

Facebook comments with one user sharing Ocon's allegations that Pos Malaysia used his photograph for its yet-to-be-released bird stamps. The poster has been since been taken offline.
Facebook comments with one user sharing Ocon's allegations that Pos Malaysia used his photograph for its yet-to-be-released bird stamps. The poster has been since been taken offline.

“It seems somebody has stolen one of my photos of a Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach), then used it erroneously as a photo of a White-fronted Falconet in a stamp issued by Malaysia!” he had written in a post on Digital Review Photography (DP Review)’s online forum on Wednesday, pointing out that both birds had “very different” appearances.

Contacted by The Malay Mail Online yesterday, Ocon confirmed he had personally posted a complaint titled “My photo was stolen and used in a Malaysian stamp?” on DP Review and several other photography websites.

Claiming that the image of a white-chested bird in the “Visit Malaysia Year 2014” stamp series was virtually identical to his own work, Ocon provided a link which compared a cropped image of the bird in the Pos Malaysia poster against his “original” photograph.

“Many features and detail are identical, much like fingerprints,” he said in emailed remarks to The Malay Mail Online, with the comparison showing the two bird images allegedly sharing the same blemish at the upper beak, same wing details and identical tail details.

The bird on the Malaysian stamp -which was shown perching in a slightly-tilted position on a brown branch - purportedly had the same claw positions with Ocon’s image, while the pale watermark - placed slightly above the bird’s claws gripping a green stalk in his image - was allegedly “cloned out” or erased.

In a brief video clip where the stamp’s image was superimposed over Ocon’s watermarked photograph, he said that everything in both images matched except for “the background and the [perch] which were altered”.

The video analysis titled “Stolen Long-tailed Shrike / White-fronted Falconet photo evidence” was posted by a user in the same DP Review forum, said Ocon.

According to Ocon, other photographers in the DP Review forum that had carried out their own analyses said that both photographs are “the same image”.

“I’m confident that an analysis by independent experts will confirm the same. By the way, I have the RAW file of the image, so I can easily prove copyright ownership in any forum/ venue,” he said, referring to the original unprocessed image captured by digital cameras.

At the time of writing, Ocon had not contacted Pos Malaysia to complain over the matter, but said he believed that an “apology will be in order” if both images were found to be the same.

Stolen Long-tailed Shrike/White-fronted Falconet photo evidence from Martin on Vimeo.

In the same online complaint posted by Ocon, he had also said that the image of the bird was given the wrong label in the stamp collection.

Malaysian bird expert Andrew Sebastian told The Malay Mail Online that the image of the bird in the stamp collection did not match the

White-fronted Falconet label given.

“Unfortunately, somebody used the wrong photo. The photo is of the Long-tailed Shrike which is a resident bird in Malaysia, much bigger in size than the falconet and it’s shared with a lot of countries,” Andrew, who is also Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)’s head of communications, said when contacted.

The Long-tailed Shrike - which can be found in areas such as Iran right through the Indian subcontinent to South-East Asia, including Malaysia and the Philippines - is around 25 cm in size, Andrew said.

On the other hand, he said the White-fronted Falconet is an bird endemic or unique to Borneo, with the species being “found only in Sabah” and rare appearances being recorded in the extreme east areas of Sarawak.

The White-fronted Falconet which measures 15 to 17 cm is “one of the smallest bird of prey in the world” and has not been spotted in Kalimantan, Andrew said.

When asked to look at the bird names shown in Pos Malaysia’s promotional poster, Andrew said the three names in the first row - Bornean Bristlehead, White-fronted Falconet, Whiteheads Trogon - belonged to to native Borneo birds, while the last three species shown- Malaysian Hill Patridge, Mountain Peacock Pheasant and Malaysian Peacock Pheasant - were endemic to Peninsular Malaysia.

The poster featured six images of different birds with a stamp value of 60 cents each, with the collection being framed by drawings of hornbills and topped off with the “Visit Malaysia 2014” logo and the country’s tourism tagline “Truly Asia”.

While saying that it was good to feature local birds in the stamp collection, Andrew said that the error should be corrected quickly, noting that many tourists visit Malaysia to watch the birds here, especially those that are unique to the country.

“I sincerely hope this matter is rectified immediately so people can enjoy and study our birds,” he said.

The Malay Mail Online has yet to receive a response from Pos Malaysia over this issue.

The promotional poster was apparently posted this Monday as part of a photo album titled “Visit Malaysia Year 2014” on the official Facebook account of Pos Malaysia’s Stamp and Philately Unit, but has been removed last night.

According to the Facebook account, The “Visit Malaysia Year 2014” stamp collection is slated to be issued on November 13, in conjunction with Stamp Week, which runs from the same day and ends on Nov 19.

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