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The GQ kerfluffle - Mark's Journal
The GQ kerfluffle
On Thursday evening, my friend Rich congratulated me on Twitter for my photos being used in a GQ piece on the Finger Lakes. It was the first I'd heard of it. GQ published four of my photos accompanying the feature, and while there was a teeny "flickr.com/mhaithaca" under the accompanying text, I don't consider that attribution. My Flickr profile clearly states what I consider proper attribution: my name.

I tweeted about the theft, which caused a flurry of discussion, and several retweets. It wasn't surprising that GQ noticed (we were, after all, using their Twitter handle) and, during the day on Friday, I got a message on Flickr from their photo editor:

Hi Mark,

I was alerted to some tweets from you claiming GQ.com stole your photos for our Short Order Finger Lakes piece. I am the photo editor and checked and saw your photos were under a creative commons license. They we actually all used for editorial use which wouldn't be the same as commercial ad use. I do apologize for the misunderstanding and would be happy to issue you our standard online editorial fee of $50 for stock photos. We did credit your flickr page in the piece but please let me know if you'd like to be credited differently.

Look forward to hearing from you.


Corrie [nameredacted]



Frankly, I'm perplexed at the idea that the photo editor of a major publication could conceivably not know what "commercial use" means, and that you can't simply take photos you find on the Internet and publish them in a commercial publication. Here's what I'm sending in response:

Hello, Corrie. Thank you for your note.

I think you've misunderstood the nature of the Creative Commons non-commercial license. That term doesn't mean "not to be used in a commercial," but means "not to be used by a for-profit, commercial enterprise."

GQ and Condé Nast are a for-profit, commercial enterprise. You are selling advertising and selling subscriptions. Your publication is not a hobbyist blog intended to casually share things that amuse you personally, but a commercial publication intended to make money. This is without question a commercial use.

If my interpretation of non-commercial surprises you, perhaps you would find the Creative Commons study on the subject enlightening. (Don't worry; you're not the only person who's ever been confused by the license.)


When noticing that my photos are covered by a Creative Commons license, you no doubt also noticed that they were available for licensing through Getty Images. That's to make it easy for commercial enterprises, such as Condé Nast, to license my work.

Of course, when the CC license does apply, the attribution aspect of the license requires licensees to provide proper credit per the requirements of the rights holder. My Flickr profile makes my wishes along these lines remarkably clear. Please credit "Mark H. Anbinder."

My standard license fee for commercial uses is $250 per photo. A local non-profit recently paid my non-profit rate of $75 for each of two photos they wanted to use in the program booklet for an event. In fact, they insisted on paying when I wanted to donate them.

Please send payment for $250 for each of four photos, or a total of $1,000. My address:

Mark H. Anbinder
106 Park Lane
Ithaca, New York 14850

Let me know if you need a formal invoice, and I'd be happy to submit one.


14 comments or Leave a comment
helianthas From: helianthas Date: June 2nd, 2012 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well done. And be sure to follow up if you do not hear back!
theidolhands From: theidolhands Date: June 3rd, 2012 12:27 am (UTC) (Link)

f4f3 From: f4f3 Date: June 2nd, 2012 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yup, that seems to cover it.
polypolyglot From: polypolyglot Date: June 2nd, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
As said elsewhere, I hope you have a positive outcome.
kaitl From: kaitl Date: June 2nd, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Screened comment)
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: June 2nd, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: You may already know this

She might want a W-9, too, as Cornell did when Cornell United Religious Work recently paid me $150 for two photos. (They're the non-profit I mentioned. I was tickled to be able to provide the photos they needed, but I did need to go out to shoot some extra pictures, which is why I didn't argue too hard about their wanting to pay me.) Conveniently, I have that one ready to send her, if she needs it.

Any recollection of what payments were common?
polypolyglot From: polypolyglot Date: June 2nd, 2012 05:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
On the Culture Desk, my then-bosses often had to pay for vintage photos, the rights for w hich were owned by Photofest. It was nearly impossible to highlight a certain movie of the past without having to pay Photofest.

On the Foreign Desk, while we often had a few shooters on staff in the Middle East, there were more who were contract photographers (essentially freelancers with a retainer). However, these had a contract outlining the rights of the Times with respect to usage, with rights reverting back to the photographer after a certain interval, etc. Even if they only pay you for these four, you may get some kind of boilerplate contract outlining Condé Nast's rights and your own.

As a point of comparison, the 100-word daily briefings one sees in the international, national and metro sections of the NYT? In 2009, those paid $35 (though I don't believe "a picture is worth a thousand words" was the principle arrived for any freelance photos).
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: June 2nd, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks. I'll make it clear to her that the payment is for non-exclusive use of these photos in this feature and future derivations of this feature, including any foreign-language editions or updates.
splagxna From: splagxna Date: June 2nd, 2012 05:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
hope they send it promptly without arguing!
theidolhands From: theidolhands Date: June 3rd, 2012 12:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Imagine how few people that they "borrow" photos from, rather than hiring professionals, do ever argue?
ickletarakins From: ickletarakins Date: June 4th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
good for you for sticking up for yourself!

I put a lot of publish-worthy stuff (including photos) on my blogs and I'm always worried that someone has or will use my words or photos without my permission and I'll never even know about it. Sigh.
gibbie69 From: gibbie69 Date: June 5th, 2012 02:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Looks like they've replaced all your photos. I wonder if the other photos are used properly. I also wonder if the editor truly didn't know the difference or just thought she could pull a fast one. Also her LinkedIn profile indicates she's a "freelance photo editor." GQ doesn't have an in house editorial staff? And does that mean her job is to basically scour the Internet to steal photos?
selkibean From: selkibean Date: June 15th, 2012 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Humph! This is so frustrating! Especially reading the comment that the photos have been replaced! It would be ideal if you could figure out how long yours were up there and still send an invoice for a per diem use, or something.
polypolyglot From: polypolyglot Date: June 20th, 2012 02:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Did this ever get resolved?
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