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|What Can You Take Pictures of|
and Use on Your Web Site (Commercial)?
As I understand it, if you take a picture of a public building from a public location (street, parking lot, park, etc.), that's okay.
If you take a picture of a public building from a privately owned location, you need permission from the person/company whose land you're standing on to take the picture. (But even privately owned drives and parking lots are considered "public" unless there are signs prohibiting photography or someone associated with the property owner asks you to leave.)
Taking a picture of a privately owned building from a public or private location requires the permission of the respective owners.
Exceptions may be made for newsworthy events, as opposed to any type of commercial photography.
But, what about taking a photograph of a statue, sculpture or other work of art that may be in a public location? For example, say your town is Smith, and there's a Smith Park, and in the middle of Smith Park is a sculpture of a abstract hammer and nails, representing John Smith building the community of Smith back in 1850. Smith has been dead since 1900, and the sculpture was installed in 1950 and has become a public landmark.
So, what's the situation with taking a photograph of that sculpture in the park? Can anyone take a picture and put it on their website, sell postcards, etc.? Or, must you contact the town of Smith for permission? Or, must you contact the original artist of the sculpture or his/her heirs?
In your example of the Smith statue I would guess go ahead and do it, the reason being, search for an image of Eifel tower there are 5000+ on G and tour Eifel 15,000+. It seems unlikely that 20,000+ people asked permission from the heirs of Mr Eifel to put the image on their web site.
But, in the case of the Eiffel Tower, any copyright claims would most likely (not sure about French law) have expired. Whereas any copyright claim on the Smith sculpture might still be in effect.
I guess the question is, what happens to copyright on a public landmark? On the one hand, by virtue of giving, or being paid for, a work of art to be used in such a manner would seem to put it in the public domain.
On the other hand, the town of Smith may possess the physical work of art, but the copyright may still belong to the artist.
I wonder if it's going to come down to having to research the status of any public landmark, especially any that may have been erected (in the U.S.) since 1923, to see whether or not it can be photographed or its likeness used in any manner.
My understanding is that the courts differentiate between photographs that are specifically of the copyrighted sculpture and where there is an additional focus. A picture of your cousin Kim in front of the ugly statue is not the same as a picture of the ugly statue. Taking a picture of the ugly statue to comment on how ugly it is isn't the same as selling a postcard. And certainly putting it on a commercial website is not going to be viewed the same as posting it on a blog.
Basically, you get some transformative value in changing it from 3D to 2D, but the courts want you to get a few other fair use points if you are going to make money off the photographs.
So, in other words, if the sculpture is the focal point, it's probably necessary to get permission from the artist, or whoever the copyright holder on the sculpture may be.
But, if the sculpture is part of an overall picture of the park or portion of the park, then it's maybe okay? Like, if there's the sculpture, a gazebo and a flower display, and you get the whole kanoodle in one photo, the sculpture is part of the scene and not the focal point?
What about in a photo collage, where you have photos of landmarks around town, many of which are public and/or no longer subject to any kind of copyright protection. Could the sculpture be included as part of that?
For example, travel postcards that show all the different landmarks and sights around whatever place you're visiting?
Thanks for your input--just trying to get a grasp of what I can and cannot do. Thought I had a handle on it, from a brochure of photographers' rights I downloaded when I researched this a few months ago. But, then I saw on a website, discussion centering around taking pictures of privately-created items in a public display.
Some years ago one owner of a restaurant in Brussels used a picture of the "Atomium" as background for his website. (some ugly monument from wold exebition in 50's that became the symbol of Brussels, you now with these nine balls).
The architect claimed copyrights becouse he was the 'artist' of this building. The owner had to remouve this picture! Stupid if you ask me, but who am I?
Hopefully thsi is only belgium law adopted from Napoleon and never changed...;-)
I seem to remember that you still cannot reproduce images of the Eiffel Tower without their express permission...
A Google search for [Eiffel Tower Copyright] confirms this. You cannot reproduce any night-time images of the lit tower.
I would think in the US a parody would be okay. So you may not be able to post a photo of a night time Eifel, but you could use your artistic expression to parody it.
If the lighting of the Eiffel Tower can be copyrighted, and if Russia can claim the North Pole, I am henceforth staking my claim to Antarctica, the Moon, and Jupiter and its moons. So, from now on, anyone seeking to visit or photograph any of these places must obtain my permission and pay a licensing fee. Thanks. :-)
Ooh, NASA's not going to be happy about that one :-P
Non country-specific, so a big vague on specifics. But a good overview of the subject, taking into considerations variations in laws around the world:
The church folks here in our town want to be paid for any depiction of the main church, a landmark of the town. They even sued a renowned marzipan maker for showing the church on top of some of his cakes. Tourist boards in other towns were delighted to see their landmarks on the cakes, but this greedy church insisted on having the maker pay. How ridiculous their avidity was.
-- Ooh, NASA's not going to be happy about that one--
Now that you mention it, I believe NASA has a blanket policy of putting all their photos and videos in the public domain as soon as they're published. :-)
If only all organisations were that enlightened...
... I think their reasoning goes along the lines that the US tax-payer has already paid several tens of billions of dollars for them, and so they are already owned by those tax-payers...
From research we did many years ago, I believe we determined that ANYTHING produced by any government agency (although we were just concerned with USA) with tax payer money is automatically considered in the public domain. In our one instance it involved reproducing tables of statistics, and lists. If I recall correctly even images of US postage stamps and coins issued (as long as they clearly aren't intended to defraud, as in counterfeiting) by a goverment are non-copyrighted, as the art was bought and paid for with public funds, although I understand this is NOT the case in every country. I'm not sure about how it works if the stamp bears an image of a prior work of copyrighted art, such as Disney characters, or such. We also researched public statues and art, and basically the same held, that as long as it was part of a goverment building it was free and clear to reproduce. Also names of cities cannot be trademarked or copyrighted unless they are combined with another word, in which case the trademark can belong to whoever combined the words (i.e. "abcdtown donuts").
For more detailed info G-search for "copyrights postage stamps" and select the result entitled "US CODE: Title 17105. Subject matter of copyright: United States" from Cornell Law School.
[edited by: MikeNoLastName at 12:24 am (utc) on July 3, 2007]
Here's the place for the real poop on copyright.
Dig around a bit, there's faq's with examples and all kinds of informative stuff.
|In our one instance it involved reproducing tables of statistics, and lists. If I recall correctly even images of US postage stamps and coins issued (as long as they clearly aren't intended to defraud, as in counterfeiting) by a goverment are non-copyrighted, as the art was bought and paid for with public funds, although I understand this is NOT the case in every country |
I'm not sure if that's the case, at least with regard to the designs for the state quarters.
I researched this when the quarters were first coming out, and I thought I had read that those particular images were copyrighted. I don't remember the source, so don't know now how reliable that info was.
|We also researched public statues and art, and basically the same held, that as long as it was part of a goverment building it was free and clear to reproduce. |
In Indiana Borough, Pennslvania, there is a statue of Jimmy Stewart in front of the court house - public land, government building. At the Jimmy Stewart museum and on his "official" web site, there is this disclaimer:
"The use of film clips or the use of Mr. Stewart's image and likeness is not permitted without permission from the studio or the Stewart family."
I purchased a book recently about photography and copyrights. As with anything when lawyers are involved, it's a real mess (too many lawyers, not enough chum)..
Please keep in mind that I am no expert in this, not even a good beginner, but here are a few thoughts..
- Some buildings are copyrighted such as the Flatiron building. There are some lists online that will tell you the most common. Unfortunately, I don't remember the exact links right now. It is tricky in that you supposedly can use the eiffel tower but you cannot publish the lighting.
- From what I gather, the advice about the object of art being a focal point is probably right in most cases.
- There was an article recently that New York City might be going Orwellian with some pretty strict rules about photography and video. Google the news for that.
- I make sure not to have any recognizable people in the photos. If there are too many people I either edit them out or run the photo through a filter such as watercolor or oilpainting. (although the recent flap about google showing recognizable photos of people seems to say that if you are big, you get more leeway)
- The book I bought has a lot of info about your rights when photographing. Some stores and even local police will try to intimidate you and some will even have the 'security' try to confiscate your equipment. Do some research on your basic rights. As always, it is unwise to argue with a cop. However, if they violate your rights, you can raise heck with them later on (if you can afford the attorney).
- In a post 911 world, you might get a visit from officer friendly if you are photographing in an unusual area. If you are photographing in a known tourist area, then there will usually be no problems. I'm getting my son to start shooting some of the photos because (1) he likes it and (2) people are likely to ignore a 12 year old more than a 50 year old.
- Different countries have different rules. I heard about a guy in France, I believe, who sued because a photo was published that included his boat.
- Photographing private residences from public locations seems to be ok (ie. historic homes such as in a victorian town). However, when I do that, I edit out any cars or people (I don't want to read that Mr owner of the house hacked Mrs owner to death because the red lamborghini in the driveway belonged to Mrs. owner's boyfriend). Besides, it's just courtesy and photediting is fun.
- I make sure I keep a copy of the raw photo as I downloaded it from the camera. I'm not sure, but if anyone ever falsely claimed you were using their photo, having the unaltered original could probably help you prove you took the photo. (the embedded jpg info and forensics can match imperfections in the lens of your camera with the stored photo)
- I used a couple of photos from NOAA on a couple of my websites. I asked for permission first and how they wanted the citation. In each case, I got a reply back within 2 days and it was positive. I make sure that I keep a file copy of those emails.
- I would avoid taking any close-up photos of people. If a police office grabs your camera, they might see something and accuse you of being a stalker or voyear or whatever they call those folks. NEVER take photos of kids unless you have a signed model release in your possession. I know that if I saw someone taking repeated photos of my kid, I'd be calling 911 or 1911 asap.
- I believe that copyrights on art run out after a period or that there is a timeframe when art made prior to that is able to be freely photographed. Perhaps someone here can expand on that.
- There was talk that the foundation that runs the Newport Mansions was going to try to copyright or trademark all of the buildings. Even if you took a photo from a public location, you would not be able to use it commercially without their permission. I'm not sure what happened there. I beleive they have not done that yet.
/rambling stream of conciousness...
Nice post cgmendia. Thanks!
|- I make sure not to have any recognizable people in the photos. If there are too many people I either edit them out or run the photo through a filter such as watercolor or oilpainting. (although the recent flap about google showing recognizable photos of people seems to say that if you are big, you get more leeway) |
I avoid photographing people too, with the exception of crowd shots without recognizable faces. I have a generic model release form, but I'm waiting until I can afford to have a lawyer draw up one I can feel more secure with. Since I haven't had too much of a need for photographs of people (yet), that hasn't been on my priority list of things to do.
|- The book I bought has a lot of info about your rights when photographing. Some stores and even local police will try to intimidate you and some will even have the 'security' try to confiscate your equipment. Do some research on your basic rights. As always, it is unwise to argue with a cop. However, if they violate your rights, you can raise heck with them later on (if you can afford the attorney). |
I take most of my photos locally, and I know most of the local police. At one place, did have the security guard watching us, but they never did anything.
|- I used a couple of photos from NOAA on a couple of my websites. I asked for permission first and how they wanted the citation. In each case, I got a reply back within 2 days and it was positive. I make sure that I keep a file copy of those emails. |
I've used photos from NASA. A lot are public domain images, but it can be difficult to identify which images are public domain and which are not. Sigh.
|- I believe that copyrights on art run out after a period or that there is a timeframe when art made prior to that is able to be freely photographed. Perhaps someone here can expand on that |
Wouldn't it be the same as other copyrightable works? In that case, anything created in 1923 or earlier would be public domain. But, you would have the issue that the owner may not allow you to photograph it, though I don't know that they could prohibit you from doing so if it's displayed in a public location.
Anyway, I guess photography is a whole other can of worms. By comparison, knowing what books and previously published photos and illustrations you can use is easy.
Of course, you could simply take the position of use it and see if anyone complains. After all, the first step is merely a cease and desist notice, no harm in that. Just a thought, not a suggestion.
(This may only apply to Sweden, but anyway...)
|Taking a picture of a privately owned building from a public or private location requires the permission of the respective owners. |
I was doing a site for a Swedish architect. He told me that the law has recently been changed. Now, publishing a photo of a building (presumeably when the building is the main subject) requires the permission of the architect.
I'd casually suggest that the moral rights of artists seem to be generally increasing in the West.
See this thread:
Thanks ccDan - Great thread.
|Taking a picture of a privately owned building from a public or private location requires the permission of the respective owners. |
In regards to Google, at what point do satellite images become too detailed?
I'm a photographer of 22 years experience (photojournalist and commercial) - and I can help a little in this area...
This issue actually has to be separated into three areas:
1) Where can you photograph
2) What can you photograph
3) How you can use those photos
This is only meant to be a primer on what is a really complex subject, so your mileage may vary :-)
1) Where you can photograph:
There are 3 categories of locales -
PUBLIC SPACES (city streets, parks, beaches, etc) - Photography is legal in these spaces as long as you are not infringing on someone's privacy (looking in their window, etc) and as long as there are no local laws or ordinances restricting photography in that space (for example, in Times Square you can photograph to your hearts content; but to use light stands or (technically) a tripod, you need a permit - although tripod enforcement is rare) - City Govt buildings are technically public spaces, but usually there are local ordnances restricting photography except by authorized (press) personnel.
But, caveats aside, you have a LOT of freedom to photograph people, places, things while you stand on public property - legally, you have the RIGHT to create photography in these areas.
SEMI-PUBLIC SPACES (the 'public' areas in shopping malls, festivals, etc) - Photography in these places is the same as in public spaces, but it is not a right, it is a permitted by the ownership of these spaces. You may photograph in these places if there are no posted restrictions, or unless (or until) they ask you not to.
PRIVATE SPACES (the actual stores in the malls, any privately owned or rented property, etc).- Photography is prohibited in these areas unless you have express permission from someone who has the authority to give such permission.
2) What you can photograph:
Pretty much anything if you are in public, as long as you are not infringing on the privacy rights of others (no shooting into windows, but people on the street are fair game, even children). This is where common-sense comes into play - if you are getting in peoples' faces without cause, or sneaking photos of lots of children, you can expect someone to call the cops, or to significantly reconfigure your camera...
There has been some controversy as of late in regards to some specific buildings (the San Francisco case comes to mind) where over-zealous security guards claim that you cannot photograph certain buildings - if you are on public property, you can shoot any building you desire (some caveats apply in regards to security in a post 9/11 world - but these cases are rare, and only enforced by actual law enforcement - not security guards).
3) How you can use these photos:
Now, with few restrictions you can photography almost anything in public, including people, property, art, architecture, etc.
Where you run into problems is where you USE the photos (this is actually what Copyright is all about).
If you put the photos on your wall in your home, or put them in your photo-album, you are within your rights.
Posting them to a web site, making and selling post-cards, posters, selling prints, etc. are all considered commercial uses, and for these purposes you are REQUIRED to have both the written consent of any persons in the images (in the form of a model release), identifiable properties (in the form of a property release) and reproduction rights for any copyrighted materials (in the form of a Statement of Assigned Rights from the owner of the copyrighted art, sculpture, etc.)
There are exceptions to these rules for uses of commentary, news-gathering, and educational purposes known as "fair-use", but fair use is not as broad as it sounds (it's a specific legal distinction with specific rules; one cannot merely say 'oh, it's commentary, therefore "fair use" applies')
The reality is that if you post your vacation photos of famous monuments (like the eiffel tower, etc) to your blog or website, you probably won't receive a Cease and Desist, but you have no legal right to sell these images of someone else's copyrighted work.
This is by no means a complete discussion of this topic, but hopefully this additional info will help.
|This issue actually has to be separated into three areas:... |
Excellent post. Thank you!
Quite informative, no doubt about it, It's really nice to have experts commenting on the topic.
|In your example of the Smith statue I would guess go ahead and do it, the reason being, search for an image of Eifel tower there are 5000+ on G and tour Eifel 15,000+. It seems unlikely that 20,000+ people asked permission from the heirs of Mr Eifel to put the image on their web site. |
I agree that it should be fine but not for the reason given above.
Search the Internet for Metallica songs and there are 20,000+ files out there. I also doubt that that many people asked.... they are still not authorized to be there.
The initial poster is correct... if you are in a public place then you can take a picture of what ever you want. Monument included.
Think of it this way.... you aren't copying the art..... you are creating a new piece of art by simply taking a photo. In fact if you take a picture of the monument and the monument artist wants to use your photo of it he has to ask you permission to use your photo of his art.
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