Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Infringement

Christopher Boffoli - Big Appetites

Christopher Boffoli is a Seattle-based photographer who has been dealing with infringements for a while. He’s got a new claim and was kind enough to share his story. He explains:

This is in reference to a series of images that I’ve been shooting since 2002 that I call Big Appetites.  The work features tiny figures photographed against real food backdrops.  These images have been published in more than 95 countries around the world and are represented by fine art galleries in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.  More information about the work can be seen on my website here:  http://bigappetites.net.

[Recently], the gallery that represents my work in London alerted me to the fact that there was an amateur photographer in Rome named Tony Polinni who was apparently creating his own exact (or close) replicas of my photographs and selling them to media syndicators.  The syndicator had already sold his images to media outlets, including the UK Daily Mail which ran a big feature with his “work” on Wednesday.  And the creepiest thing was that, in the article that accompanied the images which asked him about his inspiration and the messages in his work, the quotes from Polinni were things that I had said in interviews or that had come off my website!  My photographs have been very well-received in Italy and were featured in a December issue of Italian Vogue.  So there has obviously been more than enough opportunity for this guy to see my work.

While there are plenty of artists and photographers doing parallel work with scale juxtaposition and figures, you will see from the attached PDF (Boffoli v. Polinni comparison) this is clearly a case of plagiarism.  He is copying my exact images as best he can.  I reached out to 500px.com (where he had posted dozens of images and seemed to be basking in the praise from commenters for his originality and brilliance), the Daily Mail and his photo syndicator, Solent.  Fortunately, they all immediately recognized this as a blatant case of plagiarism and everyone pulled his images.  His syndicator recalled his work from their partners and from the media clients they had already sold to.  The sites obviously had to remove his work as they were probably guilty of contributory copyright infringement.  But still I appreciated how efficient and professional they were.

My legal team is in the process of drafting a cease and desist letter for Mr. Polinni.  I had hoped that have all of his images pulled would have sent him a strong message that what he did was wrong.  But unfortunately he has been defiant, insisting that he is not a plagiarist but merely was inspired by my work.  I expect I’d have a strong copyright case against this guy.  However, the fact that he lives in Italy makes the prospect all the more tedious and expensive.  So we’re hoping the cease and desist will have some traction.

As a digital photographer of the Internet age, copyright infringement is an unfortunate part of the game.  But I can’t say that I’ve ever been so excessively plagiarized before and the fact the plagiarist insists he has done nothing wrong is all the more frustrating.

Christopher has a history of protecting his work, and we applaud him for his efforts!  Keep it up!

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Carolyn E. Wright

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