Aug. 24, 2004 – An Atlanta-based fashion company now owns the famous photograph of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara printed on thousands of t-shirts and posters, and is threatening to sue an independent, progressive company that produces the shirts.
The would-be plaintiff, Fashion Victim, said it acquired the exclusive rights to the Guevara image two years ago from the estate of Alberto Korda, the deceased Cuban photographer who took the photo in 1960. Northern Sun Merchandising, a mail-order business in Minneapolis, Minnesota, received a call last week informing the business that it could no longer produce its own Che apparel, mugs and posters.
In an ironic twist, a Fashion Victim employee told Scott Cramer, the owner of Northern Sun, that Fashion Victim's shirts are now being made in Honduras -- famous for its anti-union sweatshop labor.
"I told them that if I buy T-shirts made in Honduras, my customers are going to be very unhappy," Cramer told the Star Tribune. "I said if I would make a big enough order, could they have them made in the U.S.? They said, â€˜No.â€™"
Cramer later received an email from the company, warning that if Northern Sun does not order new Che shirts from Fashion Victim, they will sue for profits earned from the shirts since it acquired the rights in 2002.
No newspaper or magazine published the now-famous photograph at the time, and Korda never received any money from its later use by progressive activists. He said the photograph could be used freely except when it "dishonored" Gueveraâ€™s memory. Korda died in 2001.