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October 31, 2006

Photographer says Iraq photo misused in Burner flier

Posted by David Postman at 12:44 PM

Michael Yon

A state Democratic Party flier for congressional candidate Darcy Burner includes an "unauthorized use" of an iconic photo of a U.S. solider with a dying Iraqi girl in his arms, according to the photographer's attorney.

"It's a copyright infringement, it's a legal matter," D.C. attorney John Mason told me.

Sound Politics, where I first saw this, has a copy of the Burner flier here.

The photo of the soldier was taken by Michael Yon. It shows Major Mark Bieger and an Iraqi girl, Farah. Yon wrote on his blog about the photo:

Major Bieger, I had seen him help rescue some of our guys a week earlier during another big attack, took some of our soldiers and rushed this little girl to our hospital. He wanted her to have American surgeons and not to go to the Iraqi hospital. She didn't make it. I snapped this picture when Major Bieger ran to take her away. He kept stopping to talk with her and hug her.

Yon has already stopped an authorized use of the photo by a new magazine. In May, Yon wrote that protecting the photo had become a full-time job.

I regularly turn down usage requests for this photo — uses that could earn money — because this photo is sacred to me and is representative of the U.S. soldiers I have come to know. It is also representative of the horrors of the enemy we all face.

Mason said that Yon turned down a request from the Republican Party to use it in campaign literature this year.

"Mike's not a political guy. Mike does not want the photo used for any message. He wants it to stand alone."

The flier was produced by the Washington State Democratic Party. I'm waiting for a call back from the party spokesman.

UPDATE: Democratic spokesman Kelly Steele said, "Our attorneys have been contacted and are investigating. As Mr. Mason said, it's a legal matter."

MORE: Yon, a former Green Beret, is an independent photographer who was embedded with troops in Iraq, including with the 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry, in Mosul.

Bruce Willis is reportedly planning to make a movie based on Yon's work there.

Yon wrote a piece in the current issue of The Weekly Standard about how U.S. officials have made it difficult for journalists to work in Iraq.

In a counterinsurgency, the media battlespace is critical. When it comes to mustering public opinion, rallying support, and forcing opponents to shift tactics and timetables to better suit the home team, our terrorist enemies are destroying us. Al Qaeda's media arm is called al Sahab: the cloud. It feels more like a hurricane. While our enemies have "journalists" crawling all over battlefields to chronicle their successes and our failures, we have an "embed" media system that is so ineptly managed that earlier this fall there were only 9 reporters embedded with 150,000 American troops in Iraq. There were about 770 during the initial invasion.

Many blame the media for the estrangement, but part of the blame rests squarely on the chip-laden shoulders of key military officers and on the often clueless Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad, which doesn't manage the media so much as manhandle them. Most military public affairs officers are professionals dedicated to their jobs, but it takes only a few well-placed incompetents to cripple our ability to match and trump al Sahab. By enabling incompetence, the Pentagon has allowed the problem to fester to the point of censorship.

UPDATE: The issue has been resolved. This statement came tonight from photographer Michael Yon:


rlier today, concerns were raised about the use of an iconic photo to which I own the copyright. I understand that mistakes of this nature can happen with no malevolent intent, and the Washington State Democratic Party has responsibly addressed my concerns. We have agreed on a one-time license for the past use of the image and this matter has been fully and completely resolved.

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