Today, the City of Detroit is putting on a bit of a show downtown: A press conference is being held near Hart Plaza to unveil the first batch of new police cars and ambulances that's part of an $8 million initiative fueled by donations from guys like Roger Penske and more.
As my fellow Detroit Jalop Aaron Foley noted previously, these cruisers scream can you see me now? I mean, check out that image on the side. It makes the city skyline pop, right?
Perhaps when things die down today, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, who will eventually use the private funds to lease 100 cop cars and 23 ambulances, can answer a question photographer Bobby Alcott has: Where'd you get that image?
Alcott, a local photog from Grosse Pointe, is alleging the DDP ripped the image from a copyrighted photo he took in 2006. (Here's a link to the shot.)
"Ready for THIS? Detroit is unveiling 100 new police cars right now — and the Downtown Detroit Partnership, who has donated $8 million to lease the cars to the City, has STOLEN MY PHOTO to use on the cars," Alcott wrote on his Facebook Thursday.
There's some clear-cut similarities between the two, but we'll avoid weighing in here. Feel free to hash away with your thoughts below.
We're chatting with Alcott later this afternoon to find out more, and we reached out to the DDP and mayor's office for a response. We'll add all of that here as soon as we get something.
Update: Heather Kazmierczak, communications manage for the Downtown Detroit Partnership, sent this statement along from the DDP:
"The skyline image of city of Detroit that is displayed on the new police and EMS units was obtained from an independent photographer, based in Canada, in 2013 and the rights were granted for use on the police cars."
Still no word from Alcott yet.
Update #2: A DDP spokesperson declined to release the name of the Canada-based photographer, but confirmed it wasn't Alcott.
Update #3: erikgrad left this in the comments. After doing a reverse-image search on google, he found a copy of the image here with the watermark in the bottom right corner for www.picturecorrect.com. It's unclear where the website is based, or how the photo wound up there, but we sent a message to the editor of the site asking for comment.
Update #4: William Valicenti, an associate professor at the College For Creative Studies and a professional photographer for over 25 years, said, if he had to estimate, a five-year contract for usage rights could fetch $5,000.
"So, it's not a whole lot of coin...but what we're talking about is permission," Valicenti said. "And how did they obtain it.
He added, "The picture is only worth as much as its negotiated...It's not about the value, it's about who owns it."
Valicenti said if the DDP does in fact have the paperwork, they should be able to show it, as should the Windsor photographer. "If it's in fact copyrighted by Bobby and he has a way to prove it was done so...then he has every right to stand and contact a copyright attorney."
Update #6: Turns out, Alcott says on Facebook, that the actual photos on the car were not his. He's still upset that his photo was used for the mock-ups.
They bought a photo from a Canadian artist, from what I understand.
That being said, the DDP is still responsible for using my photo for the mockups and rollouts that they disseminated across the media for months. However, when it came to the cars, they evidently did it right.
I'm very happy this is over so we can all get on with our lives. However, if anything positive comes out of this, I hope that people start respecting copyright of all types.
Update #7: Alcott still alleges the image on the mockup is his "and they have to account for that, but at least they are accountable for the final image." He says when he saw the image on the mockups that were released months ago he "hoped it would kinda go away, you know? We weren't sure if they would go ahead and use it, and I was assuming they wouldn't."
He says, when he saw the article detailing that the cruisers would be unveiled, he assumed they were going through with what was designed on the mockups.
When asked if he considered reaching out to DPP previously, Alcott says he thought about it, but "assumed (the design) was a mistake."
"It's all such a fine line," he says. "I love this city and they're doing a good thing. I don't want to take advantage of that."