Skip to comments.Iconic photo is at center of dispute
Posted on 02/02/2006 11:51:54 AM PST by RKV
It is one of the iconic images of the Iraq War.
A U.S. soldier in khaki fatigues gently cradles a bloody Iraqi girl in the muddy streets of Mosul.
Blogger Michael Yon snapped the photo May 2, 2005, moments after a suicide bomber attacked the unit he was embedded with. The little girl, Farah, died on her way to the hospital.
The next day, the picture ran in hundreds of newspapers and TV news shows throughout the world. It hit the front page of the Washington Post. USA Today. Fox News. ABC News. Time magazine.
The exposure should have been a career highlight for an independent journalist trying to get his coverage noticed. While millions of people saw the photo in their morning newspapers and thousands more logged onto his blog Yon could barely stand to see the picture.
"I was still upset about the bombing," he said. "There were months I couldn't even look at the photo."
He never wanted it to get out. He told Army officials they could use the photo in internal training manuals. Instead, they put it on the news wires, originally attributing it only as a U.S. Army photo without Yon's name.
The Army's decision to release the photo has Yon, widely considered one of the most pro-military voices covering the war, readying a copyright infringement lawsuit.
In an Oct. 13 letter to Yon denying his request for compensation for the alleged infringement, Army intellectual property lawyer Alan Klein wrote that Yon had given up his right for compensation when he signed the standard liability form all embedded journalists must sign.
The form states that Yon agreed to "release the (military) of any liability from and hold them harmless for any injuries I may suffer or any equipment that may be damaged as a result of my covering combat."
In his letter, Klein argues that an injury to Yon's copyright is the same as an injury to his leg or his camera.
The release frees the Army "from any liability for any injury he may suffer," Klein wrote. "The claimant asserts he was injured by the distribution of his copyrighted works to the news media. This release absolves the Army of any liability for that injury."
The Army contends that because Yon shared the photo with the soldiers in his embed unit, he should have understood the photo could be distributed further.
"(W)hen embedded journalists voluntarily share some of their photos with the Soldiers and units that they live and work with, typically through email, embeds fully understand that those individuals and units may distribute them," Lt. Col. Pamela Hart of Army Public Affairs wrote in an email.
Yon's attorney, John Mason, is trying to regain as much control over the photo as possible. He has asked dozens of news organizations to remove it from their archives unless they were willing to pay a substantial licensing fee.
Mason and Yon granted the Daily Southtown permission to run the photo for free because the paper was writing this article specifically about the photo's back-story.
If Yon moves ahead as planned with his suit against the Army, the photo could become a symbol of press rights in the military embed program.
Alicia Wagner Calzada, president of the National Press Photographers Association, said the Army's rationale for denying compensation appears questionable.
"(Yon) owns the copyright to that photograph," she said. "I would certainly never embed on the grounds of turning over my copyright to the military."
Yon wants people to know that he is not a military shill. He worries that the way his most famous photo got out to the world may have tarnished that image.
"I really am as fiercely independent as the Kurds are," he said. "The only thing I had was my independence. That was it."
Picture puts a tear in my eye every time I see it.
The disclaimer covering intellectual property is a serious legal stretch. He will smoke the Army in any Federal court on this one. And the idea that him handing it out to some soldier represented an effective public domain of his work is laughable. Yon will have to start beating every single outlet he can find with the photo including Google. If you do not act to protect your copyrighted works, you are deemed to have given up your rights.
Me too. Yon is one of the good guys. The Army has ZERO to gain and much to lose if he decides to find another story. He obviously has talent and could do well elsewhere.
Reminds me of the Oklahoma City bombing pic of the fireman carrying an infant in his arms.
Hard for me to say where the ownership is. I don't know anything (outside of this article) about this case.
Was he there on his own dime (or that of an agency outside of the government)?
Are all of his photos property of the government or does he get to retain ownership of those photos he "doesn't share"?
I ask this because work for the government carries no copyright. There are very famous photos by famous photographers that belong to the Library of Congress (some under WPA programs). Same with NASA images.
I don't want to see the photographer done wrong. I just have no understanding on what the release said.
So the Army is admitting that Yon took the picture, but explaining that they are legally going to screw him out of his right to ownership? Wow.
Am I correct in my questioning?
That photo just makes me hate those terrorists mutants even more.
I didn't think that was possible
I think this is also quite a stretch to claim that this element of the release carries over to violation of his legal rights of copyright, etc..
He's not on Uncle Sam's payroll (anymore, seem to recall he was in the Army once). I only know what I read in the article and on Blackfive.
Those are the fundamentals as I understand them. There are SURE to be many more details. IANAL, but this sounds outrageous. Slimeyness of this order makes me wonder who put whom up to it and why? Maybe a leftover perfumed Pentagon prince from the Xlinton era?
If this trips your trigger, then you better not make a habit of looking at the 9/11 coverage that the MSM has held back from us for years.
There have been efforts by some public schools to get students to write to the US government to ask them to end this war.
I think that this is partisan and misfocused.
They should be shown this (and other) non-graphic photos of the young casualties of war. The students should consider writing OPEN letters to the terrorists in Iraq (who are not all Iraqis, BTW) begging them to stop the slaughter of innocent children. Same as is done with "ban landmines" campaigns. Send the letters to Al Jazeera; I hear that terrorists communicate with that network. The open letters would find their appropriate audience. After all, the American left claims that they support AJ because they are "balanced" even when it is controversial. Prove it.
He may have lost his copyright by legal error. He could sue for damages but may never regain control of the image.
Another incompetent lawyer hiding in the military.
Clearly, to us mere mortals, the nature and purpose of the release is crystal clear.
And does not include intellectual property.
This loser must be kicked out of the military and banned from government work forever!
If stupidity is not a jail-time crime, it should be.
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