Alyson Lewis looks at her photograph that has been covered.
Alyson Lewis looks at her photograph that has been covered. Rob Williams

'Council mutilated my work': Photographer

AN Ipswich photographer has started legal action against the council for what she calls the 'mutilation' of her work.

Alyson Lewis was mortified when she saw a heavily edited version of a photograph she entered into the Ipswich City Council's Enviroplan Photographic Competition displayed in the mall.

Her image of her 10-year-old son Xavier flying a kite had been re-worked into another image and new elements, such as an extra kite string, had been added.

The council denies any infringement on Alyson's rights, but has since removed the images which were immediately covered after she lodged a formal complaint.

The competition's terms and conditions state the council has the right to "use, reproduce and exhibit any of the submitted images... in any medium", but that's not what the council has done.

(Extract) Terms and conditions, Ipswich Enviroplan Photographic Competition.
(Extract) Terms and conditions, Ipswich Enviroplan Photographic Competition.

A leading lawyer specialising in copyright within the entertainment and creative industries says that relatively standard clause refers to the image in its entirety, not parts of it.

The lawyer says that by manipulating the image the council has infringed her moral rights because copyright legislation "protects an artist's work from being manipulated without permission or licence to do so in a way that takes away from its original fabric or state".

On Thursday last week Alyson was walking through the mall when she spotted one of her photos on display as part of a large wrap.

At first she was pleasantly surprised - although she hadn't been credited - until she saw the second, edited photo on the other side of the structure.

"I was mortified at the blatant butchering of my work," Alyson said.

"Yes the council has the right to use my photo, what they can't do is mutilate my image; that's infringing on my moral rights.

"And I wasn't the only one they did this to."

LEGAL QUESTION: The original image photographer Alyson Lewis submitted into the council's competition.
LEGAL QUESTION: The original image photographer Alyson Lewis submitted into the council's competition. Alyson Lewis

After seeing the 'monstrosity' Alyson immediately contacted the council demanding the images be removed, that damages totalling $8035 be paid and a public apology issued.

She says the damages were calculated based on an industry standard calculator.

The council's CEO Jim Lindsay replied the following day in writing saying the council denied any infringement on Alyson's moral rights, made no admission of liability, would not be paying damages or making a public apology.

In a statement issued to the Queensland Times the council acknowledged Alyson's concerns but stood by its original statement saying the terms and conditions give it the right to "reproduce the images from the competition in any format".

"While the council denies any infringement of Ms Lewis' rights the image was removed from display as soon Ms Lewis' concerns were raised," a council spokesperson said.

The photo that wasn't digitally altered was also covered up when Alyson raised the issue with the council.
The photo that wasn't digitally altered was also covered up when Alyson raised the issue with the council. Rob Williams

McCormicks Law Managing Director Matt McCormick says no one has a right to take away any artist's copyright.

He said that the competition's terms and conditions do offer the council certain rights to use the photos but those rights are restricted.

"I can't see any part within those terms and conditions that has waived the photographer's moral right or allows anyone to the image in any other way than reproducing the original image," Mr McCormick said.

Alyson says this is the third time her rights have been trampled on, the most recent involving a judge in the Enviroplan Competition who in August admitted to mistaking her photograph for a stock image and using it without permission, by breaching her copyright.

Fellow Ipswich photographer Emma McLeod, who exclusively photographs newborn babies in her business, said she chooses not to enter the council's competitions; which she labelled a tool to "farm images to use for free".

"Queensland is home to some of the best photographers in my particular genre and most of them won't enter any competitions of this 'calibre' because we recognise it's a grab for free images," Emma said.

"We're accredited and we enter accredited competitions."



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