Captain's Quarters Blog

« More Sanctions Threatened For NoKo Missile Launch | Main | Disabiliblogging Round-Up, Day 1: Six Degrees Of Connie Chung »

June 19, 2006
HFM Making Excuses

I admit that I have not kept up with this story well enough, but the conflict between independent journalist and photographer Michael Yon and Hachette Filipacchi Media over their use of his poignant photograph without permission prior to publication has escalated. HFM CEO Jack Kliger has sent a letter to retailers that have come under pressure to pull all HFM publications from their shelves, especially Shock, where HFM used Yon's photograph without permission, according to Yon. Kliger essentially has told retailers to stand fast, as the entire controversy is a tempest in a blogpot:

Even though we had purchased the rights to use the photograph through a reputable photo agency, we recognize that misunderstandings do occur. We acted quickly to address Mr. Yon's concerns, attempted to settle the matter, and when he agreed to a settlement, Mr. Yon himself stated on June 5th via his on-line magazine that he was "satisfied" that we were "acting in good faith." A few days later, Mr. Yon reversed his position and walked away from our talks. We were disappointed, but not surprised. ...

Mr. Yon appears to have taken on the role of self-appointed censor and makes the assumption that if a media outlet depicts the current war in Iraq in a way he considers to be unacceptable, they are anti-military and thus anti-American. To be clear, there is nothing in our story on Iraq that dishonors our troops, quite the contrary. That said, Mr. Yon sees it fit to use intimidation tactics – such as email campaigns to people like you -- to paralyze us, the "offender."

(For more background on Mr. Yon and his controversial past and relationship to the U.S. Army etc. please read this story published recently by The Los Angeles Times. )

While mainstream press has mostly ignored this story, like-minded bloggers have taken it up with a vengeance and
Mr. Yon's website enables anyone to simply press a button and send prepared statements and complaint letters to retailers, to Hachette executives, and to other bloggers en masse. He has a highly-organized campaign and, while we do not take issue with Michael Yon's right to voice his opinion, it seems clear that those participating in this effort are not Shock readers, but rather Mr. Yon's followers.

Because of Shock's outstanding success in Europe, our research in the U.S. which clearly shows a market for this product here, and our plans to aggressively promote this new title to its intended demographic (18-34), we are confident that this magazine will strike a chord with the younger generation.

Kliger assures retailers that the standoff has been perpetuated by Yon, and does not address at all their alleged failure to secure the rights to the image other than saying that they paid some agency for its rights. Kliger doesn't explain which agency and why he thinks it represented Yon when Yon claims it does not. In any case, Kliger dismisses blog readers rather casually, even though the demographics of blog readers appear to mirror that of the intended demographic of his magazine.

Yon has responded with a statement addressing Kliger's remarks:

Michael Yon is turning up the heat on Hachette Filipacchi Media, as almost 7,000 retailers join a burgeoning list of stores refusing to stock or sell Shock magazine. The French publishing conglomerate is behind the launch of the gross-out tabloid that used a well known Yon photo of an American soldier cradling a dying Iraq child on its cover. The photo was used without Yon’s knowledge or consent. The former Green Beret turned writer and photographer spent almost a year embedded with the US military in Iraq gaining notoriety and acclaim for his dispatches detailing the efforts of soldiers in places like Mosul. Yon chronicled the successful struggle there to quell the insurgency and restore order in a city once better known as headquarters for kidnapping and beheading terror squads. His iconic photograph, which he calls “the true portrait of our combat soldier in Iraq,” was taken in May 2005after a terrorist drove a car bomb through a crowd of children who’d gathered around U.S. soldiers.

On Friday, Yon responded to an accusation of “censorship” leveled against him by Hachette Filapacchi executives who were starting to feel the pinch of diminishing shelf space. “This campaign is NOT censorship. It’s the muscular articulation of principle,” he says. “It’s how honorable people align their actions with their words. Not buying Shock, or any HFM magazine, cancelling subscriptions they may already have, and shopping in stores that are with us in this battle, are all ways Americans are sending a clear message to this company, its distributors and advertisers.”

This seems rather straightforward. If Yon owns the rights to that photograph, then HFM has infringed on his intellectual property rights by publishing it without compensating him. In this case, they have two choices: meet his price or pull the magazines off of the stands. They have no right to declare that Yon wants too much for the use of the photograph; they've already bought it at his price by publishing it without his permission. HFM appears to want a third option, which is that they set the price for Yon's property.

I suggest that HFM should honor that philosophy bidirectionally. I now declare that I own a controlling interest in HFM and will immediately replace Jack Kliger with Mark Tapscott (who needs another part-time job to go with his new assignment at the Washington Examiner). My offer will be $1,000 for that controlling interest, plus the spare parts from my back surgery for another Shock exclusive. I will also throw in another $500 to purchase Jack Kliger's house. After Mark takes over at HFM and I complete my move to wherever it is Kliger lives, we can haggle about the price -- or I can simply pay them nothing and declare them unreasonable and only interested in pursuing their own political vendettas.

If that works for Kliger as a response to Yon, I'm sure he will assent to those conditions for control of HFM. I'll get the PayPal check ready.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 19, 2006 11:25 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry is


Design & Skinning by:
m2 web studios

blog advertising


Proud Ex-Pat Member of the Bear Flag League!