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Adorable child in NGO fund-raising photo sues for royalties

The law firm Klayme, Chaise, & Steele LLC announced today that one of their clients was suing the prominent non-governmental organization (NGO) Care for the Children (CFTC) for unauthorized use of the client’s photo as a child..

The lawyers revealed their client is now a sophomore at a university, but refuses to give his name or home country to protect what is left of his privacy. The client remembers vividly the day he came across the cover of the CFTC brochure “Give for the Sake of the Children”, which featured a picture of himself as a child. The lawyers said, “At no time was permission given to CFTC by the child, his parents, or legal guardians to take such a photo, much less to broadcast innumerable copies of it around the Western world to gather funding for this organization.”

Moreover, the lawyers said, “at no time was our client compensated by Care for the Children, a beneficiary of such organization, or even aware of the existence of this organization.” Klayme, Chaise, and Steele LLC have filed a court petition to have Care for the Children turn over its photographic records to bolster their claim.

Lord Mall Blacke, a spokesman for Care for the Children, said they doubted the lawyers could prove their client was the same as the one in the photograph. “We don’t keep records of individuals in our photographs. We don’t know when this photograph was taken, or where. We can only guess it was somewhere in Africa. Or maybe Haiti.”

Other NGOs with similar photo and fund-raising practices are watching the case nervously.

DISCLAIMER: Klayme, Chaise, and Steele LLC is a fictional limited-liability corporation under New York State law, and hereby reserves the right to make fictional statements about non-true occurrences and related non-existent organizations and individuals to score heavy-handed satirical points for serious purposes.

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20 Comments

  1. Sam Gardner wrote:

    This is hilarious. It builds on the general lack of respect we have for the “aboriginals”. I am working on the issue of visibility for the moment, trying to marry the need for strengthening local accountability structures (impossible of the international NGO or donor gets the limelight) with the need to give picture and data accountability to the contributers in the giving country itself.

    In any case, we should never use photos without having the decency to ask for them.

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 12:47 am | Permalink
  2. David Ker wrote:

    Excellent post. Perhaps a more prominent reference to the satirical nature of this article might be helpful.

    This is important to think about. I take a lot of pictures here in Mozambique and I have noticed more resistance in urban areas than rural areas. It is a basic human rights issue and worth caution especially when photos are being used by NGO’s to pull heart strings or empty wallets.

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 2:48 am | Permalink
  3. E Aboyeji wrote:

    I am an undergraduate hoping to be a lawyer sometime in the not too distant future. This is the first thing on my list for a class action suit.

    No Kidding!

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 4:50 am | Permalink
  4. C. V. Inkins wrote:

    Brilliant, good stuff! I especially like the thought of a middle class Nairobi child having his or her photo taken some time ago while playing in a park or something, and then an NGO using the picture ten years later to show how terrible his or her situation is when the child in question is now studying at Yale or somewhere.

    What is tragic, and says so much about the misinformation campaign launched by NGOs, is that to most people in the west, a picture of black child in Africa is nearly 100% synonymous with poverty, victimisation, lack of agency, and hopelessness, all of which of course underpin the legitimacy of NGOs to continue their work in Africa.

    http://errwhateverz.com/

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 5:39 am | Permalink
  5. Diane Bennett wrote:

    I’m glad to see this fictional child is a proud member of the brain drain (a sophmore at a university with NY lawyers) and has learned the litigious ways of our society! Maybe he can send his award money back home as remittances to finance the development of his village and lift it out of poverty. He could simultaneously, single-handedly put CFTC out of business through the award and eliminate their need for existence.
    If only it were all that simple, sigh.

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  6. nick gogerty wrote:

    look out Onion, here comes Bill Easterly :) . Great post, humor is a great way to get people to look at situations from fresh angles and to leave their fixed points of view and frames of reference. I like the humor in your blog and think there should be more of it.

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  7. MattF wrote:

    This recently established law firm is clearly gunning for the clients of the ‘old school’ firm, Dewey, Cheatem & Howe, LLC.

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  8. avam wrote:

    Ha! Good post – too bad it’s not true (although, you never know – you might have just started the ball rolling on this somewhere…..)

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  9. Carla wrote:

    Funny post. But what do you suggest as an alternative for the NGOs who use those pics? How else should they pique ordinary citizens’ interest in suffering occurring a world away from their Volvo’s and train passes and whatnot.

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  10. Ryan M wrote:

    I’ve gotta say…. I’ve been reading this blog since the first post, but this one takes the cake. Hilarious and poignant.

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  11. TomScott wrote:

    Did you get sued by the kid on the cover of White Man’s Burden (some editions)?

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  12. TomScott wrote:
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink
  13. Anne wrote:

    seriously, there are bigger enemies out there than NGO fundraising efforts. this was a cheap shot; and an obvious one. and it’s not like there is any evidence out there to suggest that the absence of cheezy adverts would make room for anything better. basic marketing advice says to keep messages short and simple. nothing says short and simple than a photo of a sad kid. donors do not want nuance – they just want to feel better. don’t blame the NGOs – blame our consumerist, easy-does-it culture.

    and as an aside, in all my field experiences, i’ve always seen kids and adults all too eager to be photographed.

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  14. Wayan wrote:

    Careful, there is an actual organization called “Care for the Children” and I could see them pseudonym-ing some particularly ill or fly-ridden child as little Bill Easterly in their ads as payback

    Posted February 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  15. Word_Bandit wrote:

    Too bad this satire is accompanied by a picture.

    Posted February 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  16. Over ten years ago admittedly, an NGO I worked for used a picture of a little African kid on fund raising envelopes back in europe. S/he (can’t recall) was the child of a driver employed by the NGO.

    Whose child is pictured above?

    Posted February 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  17. Joseph wrote:

    Darn. I thought it was a true story of justice achieved. One day…
    We’re pinning our hopes on you, @E Aboyeji!

    Posted February 19, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  18. Christa wrote:

    I used to work with an INGO that was very careful about seeking permission for photographs and getting the subjects to sign waivers. But I often wondered if many of the people signing those waivers actually understood the nature of the permission they were granting. Can you even understand what could happen with your photo if you’ve never used a computer or seen the magazine rack in Borders? It’s a bit of a Catch 22 in my opinion.

    Posted February 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink
  19. Great joke, although I must confess, that as director of FairMail you got me worried for a second. Although it is a joke, it does touch a serious issue being that beautifull images from southern countries are being stolen by westerners to maken money on in the northern countries. What to do about it?

    Worldportraits is documenting the details of all the people it takes pictures of so they can send them a part of the earnings. Still the pictures are taken by western photographers who earn the biggest part.

    FairMail Cards has trained 27 Peruvian and Indian teenagers to take the pictures in their own countries with which they have earned over 27.000 euro’s with over the last 2,5 years. As the teenagers take millions of pictures though it is impossible to write down the details of all the people, landschapes and flowers they take pictues of.

    Who has a better idea about what FairMail can improve?

    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:04 am | Permalink
  20. Emer Beamer wrote:

    Good post, I am sure it will happen sooner or later.
    imho: Anyone’s (portrait) photo which is used for publication should be asked for their permission, if it is a child the parent or guardian should be asked.
    Re payment: If it is for a non-commercial publication, paying a fee is less normal, while if the publication has a commercial or fund raising aim, the model should be paid in accordance with local market prices. You can also consider a royalty deal, this is more complicated to administer.
    In ‘fair’ business, anyone who contributes to the creation of value should be compensated.
    Good evening.

    Posted February 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

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    [...] Point to poverty-porn critics? Ay. The law firm Klayme, Chaise, & Steele LLC announced today that one of their clients was suing the prominent non-governmental organization (NGO) Care for the Children (CFTC) for unauthorized use of the client’s photo as a child.. [...]

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