Singapore Mermaid Alleges Student Team Who Won Creator Collective 2018 Contest, Stole Her Video Footage

Imagine scrolling through Facebook and spotting a video or article about you, featuring a person who’s clearly not you.

Syrena aka Singapore’s first mermaid
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Is that scenario too fantastical? Well, it happened for real, to Singapore’s first mermaid — Syrena, founder of Singapore Mermaid School.

She has alleged that a group of students stole video footage from her and violated her intellectual property rights.

They even got an actress to stand-in as her, in their video for a marketing competition, which has since been taken down.

Not Syrena
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In a shocking turn of events, the team actually won first place in the contest – Creator Collective 2018 – organised in collaboration with Media Development Authority (MDA).

The news first broke in Rice Media‘s detailed coverage of the story, which you can read here.

We summarise her post after the jump.

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A campaign pitch gone awry

A group of students, from the ‘Creator Collective’ programme contacted Syrena, as they wanted to use her story to create a video.

Her story as Singapore’s First Mermaid would be used as part of a pitch to Singapore Tourism Board (STB), in theme with their slogan, “Passion made Possible”.

They claimed it would not “be broadcast or made public”.

Underwater footage was sent, but she didn’t commit

Syrena sent over a couple of videos she created, as a sample of what “filming underwater” with her would look like.

As the group introduced it to her as an official pitch to STB and a prospective job, she agreed to meet up with them to find out more.

Upon meeting them in person, the group clarified that the pitch was student-initiated and was part of a competition.

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Syrena then expressed that she was unable to commit to the project, in a WhatsApp text on 14 Apr.

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Following this text, the group allegedly asked for her “rate” belatedly.

Syrena says she didn’t reply as she’d already said she didn’t wish to be involved.

Group won $7,000, using videos without her knowledge

Two weeks later, the competition came to an end on Saturday (28 Apr).

A team named The Magnificent 7 was voted as the unanimous champions for their efforts, and won a $7,000 grant to fund their future projects.

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However, Syrena claims that they used the underwater videos she sent without her prior permission, as well as YouTube videos from other news outlets to create their final product.

According to her, she had not expressed any consent in allowing her “mermaiding videos to be used”, nor “heard anything from the group in ages”.

STB, the group’s client, also happened to be an organisation Syrena “hoped to work with in the future”.

To make matters worse, Syrena felt that her image was “abused” and “misrepresented” in the video.

Video impersonator presented as Syrena

You may be wondering if they credited Syrena in their project?

She says that no video credits were given, and the final pitch gave off the impression that the group “had filmed the underwater sequences themselves”.

A behind-the-scenes video uploaded by Creator Collective
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Most of all, the team “roped in a random person” to “impersonate” Syrena in a “faux-interview”.

The actress appeared in the video “subtitled and credited” as “Cara/Syrena: Founder of Singapore Mermaid School”.

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By all accounts, Syrena felt that this misleading footage may lead others to misunderstand that the “impersonator…was really [her]”.

To top it all off, she claims that “artistic liberties” were taken with her life story, as she’s “never lived by the ocean”.

Seems like even mainstream media was initially duped by the team’s story, as The Straits Times’ initial report began like so.

They’ve since removed mentions of Syrena and “mermaiding” from their original article, and added a correction note at the end.

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This is not OK

Syrena writes that she’s “absolutely livid” about the situation, and that it’s “DEFINITELY not OK to get people to play someone without their permission”.

She says that she’s “not usually a confrontational person”, as she doesn’t “enjoy drama”.

But speaking passionately about her career, she adds only this,

On the behest of the people [who’ve] journeyed with me…I have to speak out. To defend my name. My reputation. This brand I’ve built from the bottom up over years.

And of course, to defend her image and the reputation of her mermaids and school, which are recognised “locally and internationally”.

Finally, she ends off her post on a hopeful note,

I hope that the right people see this, and do the right things to correct this wrong. This shouldn’t have happened.

The aftermath

Here’s where it gets a little confusing.

According to Rice Media’s account, Syrena was told by a person named Joanne that STB asked her to inform Syrena to take down her Facebook post.

Joanne’s the managing director of Brand New Media, and speaks for Creator Collective (CC), the competition organisers.

Syrena refused to take down the post as she didn’t think it painted STB in a bad light, and she reserved the right to “share what really happened”.

Joanne allegedly told her,

Oh well. I’ll just have to tell STB that you refuse to take the post down.

On the contrary, Syrena shared with MustShareNews that STB informed her directly that they:

  1. Did not complain about her post
  2. Did not ask CC to take it down

The reconciliation

In a subsequent call, Joanne explained that CC did “vet the submissions for plagiarism”, and that “no harm was meant” through their mistake.

Although they admitted that they should have “double – even triple – checked” that the footage Magnificent 7 had on hand was cleared for usage rights.

They’ll be disqualifying the student team, and revoking the prize grant of $7,000.

As a conciliatory gesture, STB now has Syrena’s contact, and CC has offered to produce a professional video for Syrena, granting her full rights.

Additionally, Syrena has expressed that despite having “considerable legal ground to press charges”, she does not wish to do so as she wants to give parties involved a chance to make things right.

She simply asks for an “official public full admission and apology” from both groups.

Currently, she states, she’s yet to hear from them on that.

An honest mistake or deliberate omission?

Whether this entire incident was a misunderstanding or an honest mistake, one thing remains clear.

It’s absolutely not okay to impersonate anyone without their express permission, even if it’s for the sake of a student project.

In this case, the plagiarism was only uncovered as the team bagged first place in the competition.

We can only imagine what would have happened if they didn’t win.

Featured image from TheMermaidSyrena, Facebook and Facebook.