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Top South African Instagrammer accused of plagiarism, fraud

South Africa has its own collection of “celebrity Instagrammers”. Skye Grove is among this group. She has more than 40 000 followers on Instagram and has had her photographs featured in exhibitions and on television. Grove also sells her images online. The Expresso Show, a popular daily morning show, featured Grove on 29 June 2015 on its Social Media Trend segment as “Someone to follow on Instagram”.

However, Memeburn was approached by a “concerned member” of the South African Instagram community, alleging that Grove has posted other people’s photographs on her Instagram feed, claiming them as her own, exhibiting them and even selling some of these.

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The source also alleges that Grove was removed as a judge for the 2015 iPhoneography competition as a result of her plagiarism.

Read more: iStore iPhoneography competition now open

iPhoneography is an annual photography competition run by iStore which sees users submit photographs taken with any iPhone model. Participants stand a chance of winning prizes and also their images go into an exhibition hosted in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The iPhoneography organisers did not divulge the reasons for Skye Grove’s dismissal as a judge. They did however confirm that she had been removed from the judging panel following a “mutual agreement” between the two parties.

Memeburn’s source claims that it is after this removal that Grove began to remove a number of the photos in question on her Instagram account.

When Memeburn contacted Grove for comment, she said she was aware of the allegations against her, and noted that she had “been in contact with some of the photographers in question and apologised to them”.

She went on to say that “The photos that are currently featured on my Instagram account and my Facebook photography page are all my own”

Read more: 5 big Instagram trends that have emerged in 2015

The scope of Grove posting pictures that are not her own on Instagram and accepting that she took them is expansive. Memeburn’s research has revealed more examples of possible plagiarism, including images she claimed to have taken during a trip to London.

Grove started selling some of the photos that appear to have been plagiarised and exhibited them too.

A screengrab from Grove’s online store (which has since closed) shows an image that appears to have been edited from someone else’s. It is an image of a naked black man dancing whilst balancing on a stick. However the image appears to originally have been posted online in 2008 by Jason Skinner. (Instagram was launched in 2010.)

Another image that Grove appears to have posted on Instagram and went on to exhibit is of a male surfing.

This image was taken by Adam Smith and posted on Flickr on 18 December 2013.

Memeburn contacted Smith, who is based in Australia, and he confirmed that the picture was an edited version of his own and that he knew that Grove had plagiarised it.

“I was extremely annoyed when I had found out that my image had been used without permission,” Smith says.

On 20 March 2015, Grove exhibited Smith’s image in an exhibition held at PISCO Bar in Cape Town.

Smith contacted Grove, via an email on 14 July 2015, to which Grove replied.

“The MyPretty site was uploaded by a family member of mine some time ago. I never went to check after the online store went live and have not made any sales from the site. I am horrified that a photo of somebody else was used on my site. I have removed it immediately and have deactivated the MyPretty store. I apologise absolutely and sincerely for this.”

Read more: 3 instances of ecommerce becoming ‘enabling’ commerce

In another email, Grove offered to reimburse Smith for the misunderstanding.

Something similar happened to an image that appears to have been taken by Lulu Lovering. The image is of a woman in a white dress standing on a wave. The image was posted on Flickr on 2 August 2013 by Lulu Lovering. A flipped and cropped version of the image, credited to Grove then appeared for sale online on Grove’s MyPretty store.

In its community guidelines, Instagram is clear on the subject of plagiarism, stating that users should “post only your own photos and videos and always follow the law”. Grove then, by her own admission, broke these rules by posting images she did not take.

Grove’s Instagram profile has flourished, with some of her images getting featured in communities like Real snapping artists and IG artistry in which she continued to accept credit for the images.

Cover image by Adam Smith

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