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UPDATE: DKNY posted an apology on its Tumblr:

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While I believe the explanation, as it appears to have been only the one store that did this, it just goes to show you shouldn’t use work you don’t have the rights to, even internally.
Also, I still think they should ante up more money to the YMCA.

I’ve see folks snag images off a Google search to use for blog posts. Sometimes it’s a company logo, sometimes it’s a photo illustration. Other times it’s a photo.

That’s not cool, and I go out of my way to search on Flickr’s Creative Commons stream or other stock image sites for photos I can use just with giving credit to the photographer. I’ve also used paid stock photo services in past jobs, and plan to again.

Some publications have taken a very lenient view toward others appropriating their content. Dwell, for example, embraced blogs such as Unhappy Hipsters that use Dwell photos (giving full credit to both the photographer and publication) because it is turning the photos into their own sort of art. And to fight against the use of their photos online is akin to plugging a crack in a pipe – another’s going to crop up.

But the case of DKNY (Donna Karan New York) and HONY (Humans of New York) is another entirely.

The image above is a screenshot of the HONY blog today, of part of the image a reader sent in, along with the beginning of the photographer’s explanation of what he’s writing about. Given that Brandon Stanton, the eye behind HONY, requested that people reblog the photo and share his story, made me feel comfortable in sharing the image here, though I’d rather you go to his blog and read it straight from hm.

Quick background: HONY is a fabulous Tumblr in which Stanton posts a photo of a different New Yorker each day, often with a little story about the person – if the person cooperates on that part.

Seems that someone from DKNY approached Stanton a while back, asking him for 300 of his photos to display in a store window. They’d pay him $15,000. That comes to $50 per photo. For the quality of his photos, that’s incredibly low, and given it’s from a company the size of DKNY, a tad bit insulting. So he asked for more money. They rejected his request and walked away.

Fast forward, and an eagle-eyed fan in Bangkok (yes, people from all over the world are HONY fans) sent Stanton a photo of a DKNY store there with his photos decorating the window.

I cannot imagine that is a coincidence. Same company? Same photographer? Nuh-uh. That’s just theft, plain and simple. Many fans have been posting on the DKNY Facebook page, and are starting to complain their comments are being deleted. Bad move.

There are a lot of gray areas on the Internet when it comes to copyright. This ain’t one of ’em.

Do the right thing, DKNY. Stanton is asking that you donate $100,000 to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Me? I think that’s letting you off cheap.

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