Islamic State Steals Photographer’s Artwork for Religious Propaganda

War Toys

In the current digital era, artists may be used to having their work stolen; but a photographer from California recently discovered that Islamic State has stolen one of his artworks to recruit new militants. Brian McCarty, resident of West Hollywood, was left infuriated after he found out that the terrorist group had not only stolen but also digitally altered the artwork to make it more appropriate for religious propaganda.

Isis Image

Brian McCarty

While the original picture depicted a tiny Cinderella surrounded with missiles in the midst of a warzone, the doctored image showed the character swathed with Islamic State’s distinctive black flag.

Reportedly the terrorist group has been using McCarty’s picture on all of its social media accounts for over a year now; but the photographer learned about that only recently when Pixsy –a service that watches the Internet for copyright violations– decided to notify him.

“I expected to find commercial usage of my work, but this was complete shock. Honestly, at first it was so completely surreal, I didn’t know how to react. It took some days to process and I’ve grown more angry and more outraged, not at the theft but at the corruption of the message,” said McCarty.

McCarty (41 years old), who is world-renowned for his contemporary photographs depicting toy characters in real-life circumstances, will be showcasing his work at London’s Serpentine Galleries this spring. His pieces, including many that were completed in actual war zones, have been featured in books while his four-year-old War-Toys project has also toured the world.

A young girl’s drawing inspired McCarty’s picture that was eventually stolen by Islamic State. The girl, who happens to be a resident of Gaza, is believed to have lived most of her life fearing missile strikes. McCarty created the piece hoping to promote peace.

McCarty Inspiration

“This project is about children’s experiences of war and is anti-war. It’s very insulting to me and insulting to the intentions of the project,” he said.

When the photographer along with Pixsy contacted Twitter and other social media websites to have the copyrighted picture removed, they received no response.

In a blog post, Pixsy noted that it could take legal action on behalf of its members if their works were to be stolen. However, Pixsy also opted out of all legal options, saying it wanted to set an example.

“With clear harm done to the photographer and a potential net worth of over $2 billion, the thugs at ISIS certainly have the means to compensate the photographer,” read the blog. “As egregious as the infringement is, however, neither Pixsy nor the photographer can accept money from a terrorist group.”

McCarty said that neither he nor Pixsy had attempted to contact Islamic State.


As a matter of fact, McCarty is only one among many others who have had their artworks stolen by jihadist organizations since a group called Cyber Caliphate was started by Junaid Hussain in England to help spread Islamic State’s religious propaganda. Hussain was killed in a drone strike in August 2014.

Photo Credits: Laughing Squid

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