Last week I wrote that freelance photojournalist Michael Yon had settled, more or less amicably, the difference he had with Hachette Filipacchi Media (HFM) regarding their unauthorized use of his poignant photograph to push an anti-US-military agenda (the magazine was released on Memorial Day, for maximum damage, I might add). It seems we were in error. Yon had taken them at their word, that HFM would remove the image from their websites, that they would pay a licensing fee to Yon plus healthy sum to Fisher House (a private organization who make arrangements so families of wounded soldiers can stay near the hospitals where their loved ones recuperate), that they would remove all unsold copies of the debut issue of SHOCK from the shelves, and do it all in a timely manner.
I suppose we should not be shocked that the publishers of SHOCK would renege.
In their initial stages, in fact -- before they were pressed into the settlement, not only had they tried to steal Yon’s work, they tried to bully him into submission by threatening him with a lawsuit for defamation! When that failed, and Yon’s lawyers -- and the outraged blogosphere and American magazine readers showed them what for -- they backed down only enough so that it would appear they were trying to cooperate. In the meantime, they delayed, fiddled, and outright lied about the handling of his photograph. To quote from Michael Yon’s website, “It’s been a week of watching them bob and weave, spin the story to the media while obfuscating and stretching credulity in its dealings with me with claims such as it takes them two or more days to get an image taken off a website because ‘their IT department is in France.’” It doesn’t take a cybergenius to see through that one. One telephone call and the push of a button could have done the job.
The continued delays as the image stayed up at HFM’s promotional websites prompted Yon to demand payment for added unauthorized usage. They figured that $20,000 paid to him -- to be deducted from what they had already agreed to pay his preferred charity -- would solve all their problems. Michael begged to differ.
And not only did they mislead Yon as to their intentions regarding his original, copyrighted work being printed in their new magazine and plastered all over their website, they had already printed the same picture, without permission, in their French version of the same magazine, Choc. In the process of discovery, as Yon began to see how far outside the spirit and letter of their agreement HFM had gone with their debut American issue, they let it slip that, once they managed to get the American magazine authorized, they could take it to court to prove retroactive approval for their use of the same image in their French edition two months earlier. In other words, they would be happy to throw the foolish American artist a sop, so that they could steal from him to sell more of their magazines in both France and English-speaking neighborhoods.
Aside from HFM’s theft outright from Michael Yon, aside from their insult to our troops, they are stealing from us, as well. Every day Yon has to take to deal with their outrageous misconduct is another day stolen from his going out to practice what he has done so brilliantly, what he has done to make himself theft-worthy: he is taken away from his camera work. So long as HFM continues to bluster and bluff and sidestep, Yon is distracted from his work afield. Michael Yon is a man of extraordinary courage, vision and strength, as can be seen by what his camera brings us. He should not have to waste those gifts in battle against an arrogant French magazine publisher.
If you, too, find HFM’s behavior reprehensible, please visit Michael Yon’s Online Magazine, at http://michaelyon-online.com/shockmag.php, for links and tips. And, if you subscribe to American Photo, Boating, Car and Driver, Cycle World, Elle (and its sister magazines), Flying, Home, Metropolitan Home, Mobile Entertainment, Popular Photography and Imaging, Premiere, Road and Track, Sound and Vision, or Woman’s Day, contact their publisher -- HFM -- and tell them what you think of their practices. I can’t tell you to cancel your subscription, but... well... I can certainly encourage such action.