Photographer takes copyright infringement case to the Web, gets DKNY to pay up

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As the old saying goes, crime doesn’t pay, especially these days in our ever-so-connected global community. That was the situation clothing company DKNY found themselves in when they used copyrighted images for an in-store display.

DKNY had wanted to license 300 photos from New York City street photographer, Brandon Stanton, who has garnered some recognition thanks to his Humans of New York photo project. DKNY, which had planned to use the photos in their stores around the world, offered a one-time payment of $15,000 to Stanton. The photographer negotiated for more money, believing he was being low-balled, but DKNY walked away.

It’s common for business transactions to fall apart, but it seems the memo didn’t get through to certain parts of DKNY. Thanks to a fan in Thailand, Stanton was sent a photo of a DKNY store in Bangkok plastered with his photographs without permission. Instead of filing a lawsuit or cease-and-decease letter, Stanton explained the situation to his more than half-a-million Facebook followers and asked them to encourage DKNY to donate $100,000 in Stanton’s name to a YMCA branch in Brooklyn, New York. Stanton did not request to be personally compensated.

It worked: Stanton’s post was shared and reposted, receiving thousands of comments. It didn’t take long for DKNY to respond. For their part, DKNY didn’t deny the improper use and explained it was a simple error, saying, “It appears that inadvertently the store in Bangkok used an internal mock-up containing some of Mr. Stanton’s images that was intended to merely show the direction of the spring visual program. We apologize for this error and are working to ensure that only the approved artwork is used.”

DKNY said they would make a donation to the YMCA, albeit at $25,000, much less than what Stanton had suggested. It seems, however, that Stanton is satisfied. “That really made me happy,” Stanton wrote on his website. “I went to bed last night thinking about all the kids who’d be going to summer camp.” To make up for the rest of the $75,000, Stanton has turned to Indiegogo to help raise the funds via crowdfunding. “ I started thinking about the kids who wouldn’t be going to summer camp. And I thought: ‘You know what, wouldn’t it be awesome (and fun) if we made a $75,000 donation?’ That way, a bunch more kids could go to summer camp,” he wrote.

Stanton seems happy to close the book on this chapter. “In ten years, I don’t want to look back on this week as some sort of missed opportunity. I’d rather remember it as that time we took something negative and used it as an excuse to send a bunch of kids to summer camp – who otherwise would not have had the resources to go.”

Had it not been for an eagle-eyed fan halfway around the world and the effectiveness of social media, Stanton never would have known that his work was being infringed upon, and DKNY would have gotten away with it.

(Image via Brandon Stanton / PetaPixel)

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