Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Copyright Infringement

Normally, I wouldn’t comment much on copyright infringement, not because I feel it isn’t important, but rather because it happens so often that you would need a network of ten bloggers out searching for it just to do the topic justice. I’m making an exception here and will be posting this on both Dark and Stormy Nights and Off the Wall.

Blogger, author, and photographer Michael Yon has spent many months in Iraq and Afghanistan documenting the war on terror. Whether you are for or against the war, whether you believe it is run well or being mishandled, whether you are Republican or Democrat or conservative or liberal, most of you believe in your hearts that our soldiers are deserving of our respect and honor. I, too, believe that.

On my MySpace profile, I list Michael Yon as one of my heroes, in the same line as Ernie Pyle and Joe Galloway. Mr. Yon does not know me, nor I him, but he would probably feel uneasy being placed in the same category as those two great photographers. He’ll just have to get over it. History will judge, but I believe Mr. Yon is kin to Mr. Pyle and Mr. Galloway.

Why am I telling you this?

Because of this photograph.

Michael Yon has been negotiating with French conglomerate HFM (publisher of American Photo, Boating, Car and Driver, Cycle World, ELLE, ELLE Decor, ELLEgirl, Flying, For Me, Home, Metropolitan Home, Popular Photography & Imaging, Premiere, Road & Track, Road & Track Road Gear, Road & Track Speed, Sound & Vision, Woman’s Day and Woman’s Day Special Interest Publications) and Polaris (a stock image supplier) over the unauthorized use of his image on the cover of the premiere issue of SHOCK, a new magazine billed as “the Life Magazine for the new millennium.”

I won’t rehash Mr. Yon’s case here. You can find his argument on his site if you are so inclined. What I do want to bring to your attention is this: do you remember the photograph of the Vietnamese girl running naked down a road with her burned skin hanging from her body? Everybody associates that photograph with the fact that the Americans were in Vietnam. Nobody remembers that it wasn’t the Americans who dropped the Napalm that burned that child.

The story behind Michael Yon’s photograph is this: a group of children had gathered around an American unit as they were handing out toys and candy when terrorists blew up a car bomb killing several and severely wounding the little girl seen in the arms of that soldier. SHOCK magazine ran the photograph on the cover of their magazine, and they slapped this headline on top of it: “WAR IS STILL HELL! Jarring Proof that Iraq is the new Vietnam.”

Then, to add insult to injury, in the table of contents they placed a photograph of Mr. Yon holding a framed copy of the print telling it’s readership “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!” as if he had sent it in. While, to my knowledge, Mr. Yon has not mentioned it, it irks me to no end that they referred to him as an amateur. How long do you have to spend as an imbed before you “turn pro”. He’s been doing it for well over a year that I know of and probably longer than that.

For those of you who don’t know, in Sea of Dreams my character Ian McCain is a war zone photographer who is loosely based on an amalgamation of Mr. Pyle, Mr. Galloway, and Mr. Yon. It is a dangerous way to be a photographer, much more so than any wedding I’ve ever done. Not only do our soldiers deserve respect, but so do those reporting on the war. It’s hard enough to get news from the front line when the major media has abdicated their responsibility. We don’t need major media stealing images from those who’ve done the work and implying that they support the opinion attached to them.

It is very likely that this will result in a lawsuit as it appears HFM has not been negotiating in good faith.

I won’t tell you to send letters or boycott magazines or anything like that. I just want you to be aware that what you see and read is not always the truth.

Please visit Michael Yon’s site at least once and take a look at what he has written. It’s not all pro-war, but it is always pro-soldier. Michael Yon is one of my heroes whether he likes it or not.


Anonymous GM Roper said...

What a terrific post. Michael Yon is, as you say, always pro-soldier and this comes through in his essays and in his photographs. Thanks for such an illuminating essay.

2:13 PM  

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