Nov 28, 2007

When is Photoshop unethical?

Source: Freelance UK
Showing reality through a picture is generally accepted as photography’s main purpose.

But popular and easy-to-use image editing software is calling that reality into question.

Last month, Culture Secretary James Purnell was unable to make it on time to a photo-shoot with other MPs to promote a new development at a hospital in Tameside. See the PSN story James Purnell in fake photo row.

His spokesman has said that instead of ‘letting anyone down’ the MP gave his consent for the hospital to doctor the image so it looked like he was actually there.

As Mr Purnell did eventually turn up, software was used to add his pose to the original image, giving the impression he was present and accounted for – when, in fact, he wasn’t.

The Photoshop guru at the hospital remains unknown but if that person, and others who use the software without declaring it, did come forward, then they may face legal bother.

Such is the verdict of Roger Sinclair, legal consultant at Egos Ltd, a contract, commercial and media law specialist.

He told FreelanceUK: “If you use photo editing software to produce a piece of art, [then that’s] fine.

“But if you’re using it to make material changes to a picture which you are using to report an event, and to make it seem something different to what it in fact was, then there’s a technical term for that which you’d better get to grips with: it’s a ‘lie’.”

Mr Sinclair said a news photojournalist who uses Photoshop without declaring its use is tantamount to a “journalist who invents material facts underlying a story.”

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