Brandon Stanton of the Humans of New York photo blog — which has nearly 600,000 Facebook fans — was recently approached by the clothing brand DKNY. DKNY wanted to license 300 of Stanton's photographs to use in store window displays at its boutiques around the world. The company offered Stanton $15,000 for his images. Feeling that $50 per photo was too little, Stanton counter-offered. DKNY decided to pass. Then his photos were used in a window display in a DKNY store in Bangkok anyway.
Stanton says the pictures "were used without my knowledge, and without compensation." On his blog, he asked DKNY to donate $100,000 in his name to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. "That donation would sure help a lot of deserving kids go to summer camp."
DKNY just released the following statement on its Facebook page. DKNY says the photos were displayed in error because the company had been using Stanton's photos in internal mock-ups of the window display, but swapped in similar licensed photos by other photographers for the final product. (Kind of like...a knock-off?) But that Bangkok store used the internal mock-up by mistake:
Since its founding in 1989, DKNY has been inspired by and incorporated authentic New York into its imagery. For our Spring 2013 store window visuals we decided to celebrate the city that is in our name by showcasing "Only in NYC" images. We have immense respect for Brandon Stanton aka Humans of New York and approached him to work with us on this visual program. He declined to participate in the project.
For the Spring 2013 windows program, we licensed and paid for photos from established photography service providers. However, it appears that inadvertently the store in Bangkok used an internal mock up containing some of Mr. Stanton's images that was intended to merely show the direction of the spring visual program. We apologize for this error and are working to ensure that only the approved artwork is used.
DKNY has always supported the arts and we deeply regret this mistake. Accordingly, we are making a charitable donation of $25,000 to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn in Mr. Stanton's name.
Meanwhile, Stanton just updated his Tumblr to say that he's happy with this outcome. "$25k will help a lot of kids at the YMCA."
It's interesting that these days, in social media, a Tumblr like Humans of New York can be almost as big of a brand as an international fashion label (owned by the world's largest luxury conglomerate, the multi-billion-dollar Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy group) like DKNY. Stanton said jump, and DKNY — both because it was technically in the wrong for having used the photos, and because Stanton had the power to communicate with hundreds of thousands of people instantly — had to ask how high.