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Photojournalist Pays It Forward After Earning Thousands In Copyright Fees


Our next guest is a photographer who, for decades, has been telling stories from all over the world - Rwanda, Iraq, Kosovo, Somalia. Yunghi Kim has won many awards for her photojournalism. In the last five years, she's also spent a lot of time trying to keep track of how her photos are being misused. She recently recovered about $10,000 in fees for unauthorized use for her work, and she announced last week that she's giving it away - 10 $1,000 grants to fellow freelance photojournalists. And she joins us now from our studios in New York. Yunghi Kim, welcome to the show.


MCEVERS: I want to talk about one of the early times that you discovered that your work was being misused. You did something called a reverse Google search on one of your images. Can you first explain what that is?

KIM: Three or four years ago, I did Google reverse image search, where you upload an image into a browser and it shows you all the pages where that possible image ended up. And I was shocked to see pages and pages of it. I had an oh-my-God moment.

MCEVERS: What was the image?

KIM: It was an image from war in Kosovo from 1999. It's a picture of a boy photographed from the back, looking at a fire in a distant horizon. It was also being misused because it was being used as - image as Palestinian refugee camp. Unauthorized use and misuse of images are a huge headache for photojournalists because, you know, we tell visual stories in the context of history. And we want our work used in a responsible way.

MCEVERS: Right 'cause as a photojournalist, of course, you want your images to be seen all over the world. But this one was being used for commercial purposes as well and being taken out of context?

KIM: Well, you want the images to use - seen all over the world but in context of legal licensing because photographers are small business people, so they're - they have to be compensated. So that's one aspect of it. But using it for another propaganda is a huge problem too.

MCEVERS: And this money that you are giving away - I mean, someone could say a thousand dollars isn't that much. But actually, to a freelance photographer, that can be really big money, right?

KIM: Well, you know, all I can do is that I'm protecting my work. I'm happy that if five photographers register their work, got this message through this grant. I feel good about that. And I feel good about giving back to an industry that I've been part of for 32 years. If I can reward photographer in an age where everybody wants photographs for free or photographers to work for free, I'm happy to reward photographers in my own small way.

MCEVERS: That's photojournalist Yunghi Kim. Her many honors include three World Press Photo awards. She has recovered $10,000 for unauthorized use of her work and is giving it away to other freelance photojournalists. Thank you so much.

KIM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.