Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Ethics Of Copyright

Ethics in fashion is a wide-ranging subject. Sure, we can point at dodgy work practices, or attempts made to cover up environmental damage from clothing factories, or not paying suppliers a fair wage for their goods and services.
But sometimes, unethical behaviour comes from unexpected angles.
Brandon Stanton is a New York-based street photographer whose work has been featured in magazines and websites across the globe. His work is intuitive, spontaneous and heartfelt.
He was recently approached by DKNY, who wanted to feature his photos in their stores window displays. The amount they were willing to pay, though by no means chicken-feed, was wildly under the standard fee for this sort of promotional work. Brandon took some advice, and asked for more money. DKNY said no.
Months pass. Then Brandon gets an email with a photo attached from a friend who was visiting Bangkok. The photo is of a DKNY store window. Covered in Brandon's photos. Used without his knowledge or permission.
The story hit the tubes, and I'm glad to say this story has something of a happy ending. Faced with the bad publicity, DKNY admitted their fault, and donated $25,000 to Brandon's local YMCA. Things, you could say, have worked out.
The thing is, this sort of exappropriation of intellectual property is part and parcel of the fashion biz. Everyone copies everyone else. Anything remotely innovative will be pounced on, tweaked a little bit, and rolled out to the shops post haste. With that, and the ongoing misbelief that if you post it on the internet then it's public property, and you can see where Brandon's situation came from. Sadly, it happens an awful lot, and there's little the ripped-off photographer can do--apart from, as in Brandon's case, shout and hope you get heard.
Check out more of Brandon Stanton's work on his website, Humans Of New York.

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