Saddening news spread over the internet this weekend as it was revealed that the Grand Prize winner of the Smiles for the World photo contest was one that was stolen right off of Flickr. Mark Joseph Solis, currently a student at the University of Philippines, copied the image from the popular photo sharing website and entered it into the contest, claiming the photograph as his own. Solis even went so far as to make up a name for the boy in the photo along with a made up story on how the child farms seaweed with his father. Here he is giving his acceptance speech with the stolen photo displayed in the background:
After the winner was announced for the contest, the actual owner of the photo, Gregory John Smith (here is the original photo on flickr), began receiving emails from around the world informing him of the incident. He immediately contacted contest officials via the comments section on a webpage promoting the contest. Below is a screencap of Smiths comments from that website.
Contest officials responded immediately, letting Smith know they were investigating the matter and ultimately rescinded any and all awards given to Solis. Solis responded by offering a letter of apology directly to Smith citing:
“Unfortunately, I was driven by my youth, lack of experience, and the inability to see the repercussions of my actions…I am now in close contact with the organizers, conveyed my apologies, and sought their opinion on the matter of how to proceed from here. I am surrendering everything that has been given to me in this competition, actually and virtually, and I take full responsibility for the disgraceful action and grave moral lapse on my part. “
Solis is correct in saying his actions were disgraceful. Hopefully the publicity this event is drawing will help make contest promoters more aware of the ease in which a stolen can be stolen and trigger them to take steps to prevent such disgraces in the future.