Fashion Gone Rogue, our go-to site for fashion editorials from high fashion mags we can't afford to buy, went on hiatus today after image licensing agency Trunk Archive threatened to sue for copyright infringement.
Trunk Archive took issue with an image of Lily Donaldson being used for the header of the site, and fired off this email to Joanna Gillespie, the site's curator: I was very disheartened to see the Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin photograph of Lily Donaldson incorporated into the design of your website. Clearly you never asked for permission nor received permission to use this image from either the artists, their agent or their licensing agency...It surprises me that a site that purports to support and admire fashion photography would engage in such blatant copyright infringement. How do you expect this industry to survive if sites such as yours do not respect the basic premise of artist copyright?
We ask that you remove this image from your website immediately. In addition, we require payment of a $2,000 copyright infringement fee. Please remit payment today to Trunk Archive, at the address below. If the image remains as part of your logo by this time tomorrow, and if we have not received a check from you by July 6th, 2010, our lawyers will be in immediate contact.
Gillespie subsequently shut the site down with the message, "NOTE – The site is currently on hiatus. This is just too much."
Too much meaning the request for $2K - she was happy to pull the image after receiving notice.
It's tricky to navigate around image rights in the online fashion world. Trunk Archive is a licensing agency--they own the rights to the image in question and they have the right to sue when it is used without permission. But many sites, like Style.com, seem to not care when other sites use their images as long as they're credited and there is a link back to their site (or they just don't know about it). And FGR takes pains to credit the photographer and magazine for every spread they post. While Gillespie admitted that she did take the image in question from Trunk Archive (which she believes was originally a Vogue Nippon Cover), many photographers, including ones repped by Trunk, send her their work to publish on FGR. For good reason, too. The site receives 3 million hits a month.
"Photography should be seen and shared, and my site promotes this," says Gillespie. "I don't understand why I am getting punished for that."
Fortunately, the kerfuffle has since been resolved. Turns out one of the photogs was peeved and contacted Trunk. Trunk has since smoothed things over with the photographer and FGR is in the clear as long as the image in question is taken down. PHEW.