Earlier this week, Brandon Stanton, the street photographer behind the lens of the wildly popular Tumblr Humans of New York, discovered that a DKNY store in Bangkok papered its windows with his photos — without getting consent or giving compensation.
Learning that someone else is profiting from your work, especially in a David and Golaith / street photographer vs multinational fashion house situation, can be heartbreaking, infuriating and defeating all at once. Anger is the natural response to a situation like this. Or throwing in the towel. Or launching a full-scale tantrum.
Of course, giving into these impulses is a the wrong move.
Brandon’s public response is a case study in how to handle a copyright infringement. He transformed, as if by alchemy, the crisis into a golden opportunity for a bunch of kids.
Whether you’ve been in this situation or not, there’s a lot you can learn from Brandon.
1. If you look hard enough, you can always find opportunity within a crisis. When Brandon found out his photos were being used, he decided he didn’t want to pull focus from his passion — taking street photos. This meant he wouldn’t be mounting a lawsuit against DKNY. But that didn’t mean there was nothing Brandon could do about it. Not only is he making a direct difference in the lives of a lot of kids, he’s also generating massive positive attention. This will only lead to more professional and personal opportunities down the line.
2. Make it about more than just you. If you decide to respond publicly to copyright infringement, don’t make it all about you. Tie your cause to a bigger issue or start a movement. Brandon chose to give back to his community. Link with Love is a great example of how a different blogger took a copyright issue and made it a movement.
One person’s problem = a story. A community’s cause = a movement. Click to tweet.
3. Show up with integrity. Look, everyone gets wronged in this life. It doesn’t help your cause, at all, if you show up as a whiner. If you give in to your worst impulses, people may agree that you’ve been ripped off, but they’re never going to support your case. Always, always show up with integrity. Let the bad guy play be the bad guy. Don’t go there.
4. Sometimes it’s best to accept an apology and move on. Here’s the thing about the anger you feel in these situations. It’s totally natural, but if you don’t let it go, you’re only poisoning yourself. Brandon chose to accept DKNY’s apology and is moving on.
5. Don’t let them keep you from creating. Theft and copying are always a threat. Are you really going to let this stop you?
Have you been following the HONY campaign? What do you take away from Brandon’s response?