Microsoft have apologised to photographers and accept full responsibility for the outrage caused by their Iconic Britain photography contest.
The site and competition was designed to provide a platform for photographers to showcase work and to have users praise the photography via a votes system. However, due to concerns over copyright this didn't go entirely to plan.
The competition has been a huge talking point on the ePHOTOzine forums after members found their work on the competition website even though they didn't put it there.
JK Weston, from Microsoft's legal and Corporate Affairs department told ePHOTOzine's Nikita Morris: "In no way was it ever our intention to misappropriate your work, misrepresent its source, or to inappropriately trade on it in any way. Microsoft is a significant holder of intellectual property and we do understand the importance of intellectual property and the need to respect its integrity, whether ours or yours. We take that very seriously and we are genuinely sorry the search feature on the iconic site didn't live up to our high standards. It was a mistake and we accept full responsibility."
Microsoft want to assure everyone that all images found from random searches have been removed from the site and are no longer on display.
The competition asked for people to use the Live Search function to look for photographs and the terms and conditions said the entrant must check whether the photo they selected infringed the photographer's intellectual property rights. But as many people on our site have said that work which is copyrighted has appeared on the website, it would seem that this condition was ignored.
Due to the concerns of photographers, Nikon, who were also part of the competition have now withdrawn from the contest and General Manager, Simon Coleman will no longer be a judge in the finals.
Nikon's PR spokesperson Jenny Grace said: "Nikon would like to confirm that it has withdrawn its support from Microsoft's Iconic Britain competition. This is due to the feedback and concerns raised by photographers and entrants surrounding the competition mechanic that was developed and promoted by Microsoft."
Nikon are still supplying prizes for the contest but they will not be associated with any other part of the competition from this point on.
The initial stage of the Iconic Britain competition, in which users submit entries, closed at 1pm on Thursday 31st July and now all submissions are waiting for the Final 500 reveal on Thursday 14th August. This means Microsoft now have ten days to contact the copyright owners of the images prior to the voting and reveal stages of the competition.
Pro-imaging, a site which campaigns for photographers rights will be talking to Microsoft about how to adopt better practices for competitions.
Gordon Harrison, who is part of Pro-Imaging's management team said: "We still can't understand how a company, which has vast legal resources on tap and specialists in all aspects of intellectual property matters, could make such an astonishing blunder as to use other people's images without permission to promote a Microsoft product. If anyone else were to build a website promoting their own services or products, and used Microsoft logos or imagery on their website without permission, Microsoft would take a very dim view of this and could launch an action for copyright infringement."
Pro-Imaging look forward to the discussions with Microsoft and hope something positive can come out of the problems created by this competition.