Snapchat, photo filters

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Snapchat, the popular image messaging and multimedia app for mobile devices, has admitted that it might have copied designs from artists to make some of its photo filters. This is just another, all too common story of the big firms copying (or outright stealing) ideas from the small dudes. We just witnessed the case of how Alphabet (formerly known as Google) is facing charges of stealing the idea of Project Loon (which is all about beaming Internet signals to poor communities around the world using high altitude balloons) from the little known Space Data Corporation of Arizona.

Snapchat, photo filters

How it Started

A report on The Ringer detailed the story of how make-up artist Argenis Pinal, while swiping through photo filters in Snapchat one morning, saw a filter that had a striking resemblance to his creation. The filter, known as the Joker (named after the arch villain in the Batman movie franchise) was almost exactly like what he created with little touches to make it look a bit different. Anybody would be shocked to see their work blatantly copied by somebody else. Especially artists. Needless to say, Pinal was shocked too.

 “I came across it and I was like, ‘Um, this is exactly the same drawing I did of myself a couple months ago,” says Pinal. “And it was weird, because I literally just reposted a picture of it a week ago on Instagram. Sort of a re-shout-out to it” said Pinal to The Ringer. Apparently, he had already posted the picture on Instagram a week before he noticed the filter on Snapchat.

Snapchat, photo filters
Pinal’s image is right

The filter in question has already being removed from Snapchat. But unfortunately for Snapchat, before Pinal complained about the breached to Snapchat, he had already posted his image and Snapchat’s  in a side by side on Instagram. That is one evidence the guys at Snapchat cannot delete.

Snapchat’s response to The Ringer’s report was a typical corporate spin that said nothing significant in the end:

The creative process sometimes involves inspiration, but it should never result in copying. We have already implemented additional layers of review for all designs. Copying other artists isn’t something we will tolerate, and we’re taking appropriate action internally with those involved.

Snapchat History of Stealing

If you read between the lines, there is the hidden admittance of having done something wrong. But an outright apology would have being better though. I won’t be surprised if some day, an aggrieved party drags Snapchat to court over missteps like this.

This not not the first time something like this is happening. In April, Popular make-up artist Mykie received a message from her friend that a photo filter similar to an image she created over a year ago, has being spotted on Snapchat. That experience fueled a new passion in her. She now fights for the rights of artists whose works are stolen by the big players

Just last month, Snapchat was accused of blatantly copying Russian artist Alexander Khokhlov works to create filters ‘Snapchaters‘ could use. Some of the copied works dated from 2013. Which makes it possible that a further digging of Snapchat’s approach to making filters could unearth a pattern of copying. Fortunately for them, people really don’t have time to do some digging just to expose an errand firm.

In Alexander’s case though, Snapchat admitted the crime and apologized for wrong doing:

We agree that this lens is similar to other artists’ creations and we have removed it. We are sorry for this embarrassing mistake and we are taking action to make sure it won’t happen again.”

But clearly, with the latest revelation, that apology to Alexander did not mean Snapchat stopped copying the works of others as it tries to make interesting filters for users. Snapchat needs to take a hard look at the folks in charge of the filters division. Heads need to roll. Or else, the consequences for the app might be very dire, to put it bluntly.


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