AOL’s Patch responded to claims that its recently launched New Rochelle site lifted a photo off of another local blog, calling any “presentation of those public images is purely coincidental” earlier today. Before I published AOL’s response, I asked the Talk of the Sound blogger Robert Cox, who’s making the claims, to respond to Patch’s statement. He decided to do so via his site, and he’s not backing down from the allegations.
In the post, he explains the troubles he had when cropping the mug shots of three suspects from a murder case in the New Rochelle, New York area, explaining why the resemblance is far from coincidental. It’s a detailed rundown of each step he took when cropping the photo. Here’s a snip-it of his explanation:
“The photo of Smith [one of the suspects] has a great deal of space around him and he is, relatively, very small in the photo. I am not that proficient in Adobe Photoshop so I just eye-balled it and cropped a rectangle around his head — a totally random crop that was meant to be as close to the other two as possible but random nonetheless.”
And here are the two photos posted on Talk of the Sound with the New Rochelle Patch’s version on the bottom. [It's important to note that these mug shots are of suspects, not convicted criminals. I've posted the picture solely to add visuals for what I'm talking about in the argument between Patch and Talk of the Sound.]
As Cox mentions, mug shots are in the public domain and can’t be plagiarized, but it’s a different scenario once those mug shots are cropped. Cox has even gone as far as to ask the New Rochelle editor to publish the email she may have sent to the police department requesting the mug shots.
But it’s hard to see a clear end to this. I doubt Cox should continue to pursue Patch on the topic; while, I’m sure Patch just doesn’t want to hear about the picture anymore. However, on the bigger picture scale, this is the world AOL has entered into. It’s just a mug shot, but whether or not the photo was lifted, there’s no doubt this is bad press for the local Patch.
More importantly, this could happen to any of the other Patch sites, and the local blogging scene will call out each and every mistake. And without much editorial oversight, it’s putting both the young editor and the local blogs in a tough position. Welcome to the neighborhood.