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The Internet is a place where we can all share and exchange ideas freely. But hey, that doesn’t mean you can just take whatever you like and appropriate it into your own ad campaign, right?
We’re looking at you, McDonald’s.
Last week, the global fast-food chain was busted for ripping off a series of mock engagement photos taken by photographer Kristina Bakrevski, featuring writer David Sikorski, who came up with the idea for the series. The project featured several shots of Sikorski in various stances with his foil-wrapped burrito, shooting looks of love its way.
Who of us hasn’t wanted to run off into the sunset with our burrito? Especially when Facebook and Instagram are constantly ushering in pics of couples just dying to show the world how happy they are. The funny photos caught the attention of BuzzFeed, who published a piece on Bakrevski and Sikorski’s work a little over a month ago. The story blew up from there and the photos went viral. And then something weird happened.
Just a couple weeks later, McDonald’s launched a Twitter ad campaign featuring pictures of a similarly food-smitten man. Hey, like we said it’s a totally relatable concept! And also, what’s wrong with a little inspiration from some viral photos?
But McDonald’s didn’t merely use Bakrevski and Sikorski’s series for inspiration, it duplicated their exact photographs and then published its version as a series of tweets. And then it copyrighted its photos as though to say, “Hey world, don’t go stealing our idea!”
In one of Bakrevski’s photos, Sikorski, in a button-down collared shirt, holds a tree trunk, one arm wrapping around it to show a burrito peeping out the other side. McDonald’s mirrors this image to a T. The guy is even wearing a similar shirt. The only substantial differences in the scenery is that the model, of course, isn’t Sikorski, and the food in question isn’t a burrito, but a McDonald’s meal.
This precise recreation of imagery on McDonald’s part occurs again when a man in sunglasses lies on a bed of wildflowers staring lovingly at a hamburger and fries. Sikorski was pictured doing the exact same thing with the burrito-love of his life.
McDonald’s, who has removed the photos form its Twitter page, appears to have taken great effort in mimicking the poses piece by piece, which makes the scenario all the more curious: why would such a massive corporation, who surely has an army of savvy lawyers, commit such a blatant act of theft?
It seems not even McDonald’s itself knows why — or how this happened. It issued the following statement via email to TODAY:
“This shouldn’t have happened and, with our agency partner, we’re working to find out how it did. We’ve reached out to David Sikorski & Kristina Bakrevski. We apologize to them, their fans and ours.”