Feathers ruffled, photographers mull legal action over Pos Malaysia image theft claims

It is unclear what form of legal action can now be taken by the photographers, as the entire photo album titled ‘Visit Malaysia Year 2014’ has been removed from the Stamp and Philately Unit’s Facebook account.
It is unclear what form of legal action can now be taken by the photographers, as the entire photo album titled ‘Visit Malaysia Year 2014’ has been removed from the Stamp and Philately Unit’s Facebook account.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 — Malaysia’s postal services agency may land in court as a storm continues to rage online for the purported plagiarism of several bird images used in the promotional posters of its yet-to-be-released postage stamp collection.

An American photographer is now considering legal action over the alleged use of his photograph in promotional posters of Pos Malaysia’s “Visit Malaysia Year 2014” stamp series without his knowledge.

Con Foley, whose works have been widely published, confirmed that his photograph of a bird was the same as the one featured in the upcoming postage stamp collection, but said he was “neither contacted nor credited”.

“The image of the partridge is mine and can be seen in my PBase Account,” the Singapore-based photographer told The Malay Mail Online in an email interview, referring to a popular photo-sharing website.

But he declined to answer other questions over the alleged use as he was mulling legal action.

“I am contemplating legal action and as such I have nothing further to say at the present time,” said Foley.

Foley also provided a link to his Pbase account which showed his image of a Malaysian Hill Partridge, with a dateline of January 1, 2011 below the photograph.

In the bottom-left corner of Foley’s photograph, a line stating “© 2011 Con Foley” can also be seen.

In a promotional poster of a stamp sheet of six different birds, a bird bearing a striking resemblance to Foley’s image was labelled as a “Malaysian Hill Partridge” with a stamp value of 60 cents and a “Visit Malaysia 2014” logo in its top-right corner.

Earlier this week, Filipino photographer Romy Ocon alleged that his image of a wild bird was used in Pos Malaysia’s stamp series without his permission.

In his complaint of the alleged copyright infringement, Ocon also said that the bird picture which he said bore a striking resemblance to his own image was wrongly labelled.

“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 on Thursday, 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.

Ocon provided a link to a comparison of a cropped image of the bird in the Pos Malaysia poster against his “original” photograph, saying that many features and details were “identical”, like “fingerprints”.

Ocon expressed confidence that an analysis by independent experts will confirm that both images were the same, saying that he can easily prove copyright ownership as he has the “RAW” file or original unprocessed image.

When asked on Thursday if he would be taking legal action, Ocon merely said: “I’m still looking at all my options.”

It is unclear what form of legal action can now be taken by the duo, as the entire photo album titled “Visit Malaysia Year 2014” has been removed from the Stamp and Philately Unit’s Facebook account.

The photo album had featured promotional posters of new postage stamps in sets of six, with four different themes revolving around Malaysia’s birds, insects, plants and tourist spots.

The Malay Mail Online has yet to receive a response from Pos Malaysia over the issue but Yahoo Malaysia cited an unnamed Pos Malaysia officer as saying the postal services agency was not responsible for the content of the stamp series.

“Pos Malaysia only issues the stamp and does not provide the content.  The content is managed by the design company working with Tourism Malaysia,” the officer was quoted as saying by the Yahoo Newsroom, identifying the company as World Communications Network Resources (M) Sdn Bhd.

In a post under the “What’s Hot” heading in the “Stamps and Philately” section of the Pos Malaysia website, the stamp designer is also identified as World Communications Network Resources (M) Sdn Bhd and stated that the stamp series is due to be issued on November 13.

The Malay Mail Online’s efforts to reach both the design agency and Tourism Malaysia yesterday were unsuccessful, but it could be due to Saturday being a public holiday in conjunction with the Deepavali festival.

In the comments section of a late-night post on its Facebook account on Friday, Pos Malaysia’s Stamp and Philately Unit publicly assured a Facebook user that the stamp collection’s scheduled release during Stamp Week, which runs from November 13 to November 19, would not be delayed despite the allegations of plagiarism.

“At the moment no sir, we will hopefully can do this event & we are still investigating this case. Hopefully by next Monday, we will settle down this issue. TQ for your support & sorry for any inconvenience,” the unit said in the November 1 entry.

It also indicated that the stamp collection could be issued with some changes to the images featured.

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