PETALING JAYA - Pos Malaysia ruffled some feathers when allegations surfaced of plagiarism in its newly released stamp collection.
In a forum thread on dpreview.com, Filipino wildlife photographer Romy Ocon, 48, accused the national postal service of using his photo on their stamp set without prior permission.
According to Ocon, the photo of the Long-Tailed Shrike was also wrongly labelled on the stamp as a White-Fronted Falconet. The photographer referred to the error as a "serious ignorance" due to both birds having distinctly different appearances.
The White-Fronted Falconet is known for having a prominent pale patch on its forehead whereas the Long-Tailed Shrike's famous posterior lends it its name. The bird labelled as a Falconet in the stamp has a rounded dark head and pronounced tail.
The image on the stamp and the original photo of a Shirke provided by Ocon look remarkably alike, with the exception of a different background and a slight tilt of the bird, something that can be easily edited through photoshop.
Ocon, a civil engineer by training, was informed of the supposed blunder via email on Oct 30 by a concerned stamp collector from the UK .
"This isn't the first time that my photos are stolen, but it is the first and only time that the end user of the image is a government institution. I'm sure the Malaysian Government wouldn't knowingly sanction this despicable act" he said on Friday.
Although piracy is considered common practice in Asia, Ocon felt that he still had to stand up and defend his rights as a photographer.
"By posting the embarrassing situation in various internet forums, I hope that the Malaysian Post Office will be 'shamed' to acting and correcting what wrong was done," he explained.
"I often viewed in admiration the Malaysian Prime Minister each time I see a 'Visit Malaysia' ad on TV, and I secretly wished that we have the same campaign for the Philippines.
"Now, my photo is used without my permission as a small part of that 'Visit Malaysia' campaign. I'm confident that the prime movers of the 'Visit Malaysia' programme will find their use of a stolen photo very embarrassing and act swiftly to rectify the matter accordingly," he said.
Ocon added that the RAW file of original shot is in his possession and he will be able to easily prove copyright ownership. A commenter at dpreview.com has also uploaded a video analysis to further support Ocon's claim at http://vimeo.com/78143984 .
For now, Ocon is in consultation with his lawyer on what to do next on the legal front.
A picture of the stamp collection was posted on Facebook but has since been taken down after receiving negative comments from netizens who were informed of the plagiarism claim.
The stamp, depicting a white breasted bird was released by Pos Malaysia as part of its Visit Malaysia 2014 collection. There are altogether six different species of birds in the series.
Another picture in the set, one of a Malaysian Hill Partridge was also claimed to have been 'stolen' from photographer Con Foley by a commenter on a Malaysian news portal.
In the meantime, the parties involved in publishing the stamp are expected to release an official press statement that will hopefully stamp out any misunderstanding on the issue.