Opinion

What Happens When National Geographic Steals Your Art?

neogeo-swipe-BIG
The cover of National Geographic that used Barrett Lyon’s image without permission

Apparently, and like many corporate behemoths, they throw crumbs at you, the artist, and insist they were not aware and had no reason to believe that the image they stole was yours and not an image by another individual. I mean, why call them liars in this day and age of the internet, social media, and Google! In the eyes of most appropriators, like National Geographic, finding an image online is tantamount to finding a dollar bill on prostitute row.

National Geographic used artist Barrett Lyon’s internet image (opte.org) on the cover of its bookazine, 100 Scientific Discoveries that Changed the World, and in the book, The Big Idea, without Lyon’s permission or respecting the Creative Commons license that allows it to be used free of charge for non-commercial purposes.

I have to wonder why, instead of paying their lawyers to answer cease-and-desist letters with aggressive and false allegations that they will win the mother-of-all copyright battles, they don’t instead pay their lawyers to do a bit of due diligence work? Is it a cost-benefit-analysis question? Perhaps. I mean, why not take the risk that the artist will never find out, and hell, if the artist does find out, what’s the likelihood that they will have registered their copyrighted artwork with the US Copyright Office? What’s the likelihood that the aggrieved artist will have access to a blog such as this one, to the NY Times, or the Huffington Post?

From the looks of it the artist, Barrett Lyon, is not backing off and is instead looking forward to fighting the magazine that brought us nudie pictures of Amazon women and “Oriental” landscapes. Lyon writes:

At this point, I think I am going to push my legal options … Not just for me, but for the rights of all the people they have ripped off.

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