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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Shock not awesome

There's a new magazine out called Shock. Don't buy it.

For those of you who don't know who Michael Yon is, he's a blogger and author who sent himself over to Iraq as an embed and filed some of the best dispatches of the Iraq War. (You can read more about how he did this here.) He also took some amazing photographs, including one of Army Major Mike Bieger cradling an Iraqi girl name Farah in his arms. Farah had just been mortally wounded by a suicie car bomber who chose to send himself to hell by detonating his explosives as Bieger's patrol was surrounded by Iraqi children. Yon reports that this photo eventually ran "on the front page of more than 50 US newspapers, was the Time Magazine online Viewer’s Choice Photo of the Year image, was selected by MSNBC for its 2005 Year in Photographs feature and was submitted for a Pulitzer."

So Shock magazine puts out its first issue right around Memorial Day, and Yon's photograph is on the cover with a headline that reads:
WAR IS STILL HELL! Jarring Proof that Iraq is the new Vietnam.
Inside, on the table of contents page, is a picture of Yon holding the photo of MAJ Bieger and Faran, with the caption:
Picture This: Amateur photographer Michael Yon captured history when he snagged our cover shot while reporting on the war for his blog. Could you be our next cover photographer? Send pics!
Only one problem: Yon never granted Shocked permission to use his photo.

Shock is published by magazine giant HFM, and Yon contacted them:
When confronted, they claimed to have gotten the photo “legally” from a photo agency, Polaris Images, but I have no relationship with Polaris Images and never authorized them to distribute my work.

When we confronted Polaris Images, they at first claimed they might have been given permission to sell the photograph by the wife of the soldier pictured in it. But the Major’s wife has a habit of saving emails that put an end to that nonsense. In the end, it doesn’t really matter outside of the courtroom who learned about it and when they were so enlightened, because once they did learn, the clock started ticking on their obligation to rectify the situation.

That’s why when I learned of this blatant infringement of my copyright on that photograph, I issued an immediate statement clarifying that I had not given anyone authorization for this use, and never would have allowed an image which I’ve called ‘sacred to me’ to be used in a flagrant attempt to profit from discrediting and demonizing American soldiers. What outraged me the most is how the timing of this launch coincided with the Memorial Day weekend, putting 300,000 copies of a slick attack on the very same soldiers Americans were honoring across the country. I am so disgusted with what they did with that image, which to me symbolizes the true nature of our military, that I demanded the publisher take it off the shelves.

So how did HFM respond?
HFM not only refused, they intimated in writing that they may have a claim against me for defamation based on the complaints they received from third parties about their unauthorized use of my photo.
Welcome to 2006.
Like most illegal usages, this only came to my attention after readers found it. Once I began trying to clear my name, several bloggers wrote about it and published contact information to the publisher, who began getting a flood of complaints. That’s when the publisher turned around and threatened me, in writing, with a defamation lawsuit. That’s no misprint: they took my property, used it a vulgar way, further dishonored our military and our country by timing their inaugural launch to Memorial Day weekend, and then, when some patriotic bloggers dared to call them to complain about it, they threatened me.
Yon is now filing suit against HFM.

Given that its inaugural issue apparently had only five advertisements in it, I don't think Shock will be around very long. The magazine game is tough enough for periodicals that have plenty of ads, let alone those that depend strictly on sales. But let's help hasten its demise.

Read Yon's whole story, and whatever you do, don't buy Shock.

(H/T: Mudville Gazette)

Blogger Jack Yan said...

Hachette’s behaviour is very dishonourable, and like you, I have linked to Mr Yon’s post. Under US law, he probably has a copyright claim. Under French law, if Hachette wishes to use that, Mr Yon’s claim is stronger because of what is called a moral right—if he intends a photo not to be used for a particular purpose, he has an additional claim (there are some exceptions; I am only stating a general position).
   There is a part of me that cannot shake the feeling this is all a financial ploy. Hachette is owned by a major French arms’ manufacturer, and one can draw conclusions from that.

19:48  

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