Top: Peter Bialobrzeski, Shanghai, 2001 (#57). Image from www.pdnonline.com. Bottom: H. & D. Zielske, Nanpu Bridge, Shanghai, 2002. Image from zielske.de
Sorry, I can't ignore this: my name and copyfight story have been invoked over at Stunned.org, and since there's no comment field on that blog I'm forced to either ignore or blog it here.
In an all-too-brief post entitled : "Can photographers be plagiarists," Stunned says:
Can photographers be plagiarists? The case of the Nanpu Bridge photographs by Peter Bialobrzeski (2001) and H. & D. Zielske(2002). Not mentioned in the article but relevant and interesting (and not quite as clear cut as Garnett's presentation may suggest) is the case of painter Joy Garnett vs photographer Susan Meiselas.
(Thanks Stunned). This one actually could be more clear cut than it seems, but someone over at Slate.com had to muddy the waters a bit to make their article seem more "interesting." If you follow the Stunned link you arrive at a slide presentation that plays into what might be considered the "general public's" assumptions about copying and originality; the slide show/article meanders annoyingly, if confusingly through various examples of conceptual artistic borrowing and infringement or would-be infringement cases, but it presents its main story as if the idea never dawned on anyone that artists might photograph the same bridges or buildings (even while presenting and contrasting examples of those famous shots of the Flat Iron...).
The article isn't as up to speed as it could be; if the writer had really done the research, while citing the Jeff Koons' famed "Puppies" loss in '91 it might have mentioned how that precedent was reversed by a celebrated 2005 win... I hate it when journalism puts up a show of a thoroughness it thoroughly lacks.
...here's the story in a nutshell:
The father-and-son photography team of Horst and Daniel Zielske caused a stir in September when their show, "Megalopolis Shanghai," opened at MKG, a museum in Hamburg, Germany. But it wasn't the sort of stir any artist could relish. Another German photographer, Peter Bialobrzeski, accused the pair of ripping off two images from his highly acclaimed series "Neon Tigers"—right down to the luminous, Blade Runner-like glow that was the "Neon Tigers" signature. [link]
Artists' photos of bridges, eh? this is a perfect example of what copyright is and isn't for; it also illustrates "author anxiety," not to mention author-arrogance: copyright doesn't protect facts or ideas, only their expression. So, if this is a question of the Zielske duo ripping off Bialobrzeski's expression, since they made similarly glowy photos of the same famous bridge, we have to leave the bridge out of the equation, since none of these authors has a monopoly on the bridge, legal or ethical or otherwise (the bridge would count as a "fact" here; or if you prefer, neither photographer owns copyright on the bridge; or, if you don't like either of those explanations: the bridge is in a public space, part of the commons or the public domain, and apparently it's okay even if photographers take photos of it to sell... ) That leaves us with the only similarity being the "Blade Runner-like glow".... (no one has managed to copyright a camera angle the last I checked); um, so which of these photographers ripped off Blade Runner??!