June 5th, 2012

The Most Tasteless Copyright Infringement Ever?

Copyright infringement is so commonplace these days, it’s hard to shock us, but this flyer posted around New York’s East Village managed to do it.  The flyers for Centaur Moving show copies of Don McCullin’s award-winning photo of a Turkish woman mourning her dead husband, killed in the civil war in Cyprus in 1964. What does a photo of grief, death and war have to do with furniture movers?

After photographer Ashley Gilbertson tweeted a photo of the flyer, we called Centaur Moving for information (and walked over to Second Avenue to grab a camera-phone pic of one of the flyers). A man who identified himself only as Roger, the company’s manager and dispatcher, answered the phone. Roger said that he had hired an artist who does guerilla advertising, and knew nothing about the ad. Asked if he knew the origin or content of the photo, he said, “I have no idea. I just gave him a few bucks.” We have been unable to reach the guerrilla ad guy.

In PDN’s “Heroes and Mentors” issue, McCullin talked candidly about his frustration that his 50-year career as a photojournalist has done so little to end violence or conflict, and the psychic toll that he has paid for witnessing the horrors of war. It’s hard to imagine he envisioned the fruits of his labors being misappropriated to promote a man with a van.

The flyers stirred some quick action. When photographer Yunghi Kim saw Gilbertson’s Twitpic, she got in touch with Jeffrey Smith at Contact Press Images, the agency that represents McCullin. Smith says, “I responded by sending a cease and desist letter” to the moving company on Sunday. We took a quick look this morning, and the flyers seem to have been torn down—though whether they were removed by a contrite Roger, a rival moving company, or outraged photographers, we’ll never know.

Related article
Heroes & Mentors: Don McCullin and Eugene Richards