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What Can You Take Pictures of

and Use on Your Web Site (Commercial)?

6:41 pm on Jul 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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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?

4:27 pm on July 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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bobcooley... great post.

Something is sticking out in my mind though. I remember a case where someone took video of a couple having sex in their bedroom. The person who shot the film was standing on the sidewalk out front and could clearly see the couple.

I can't remember the full details but either the couple found out and sued for the tape.... or the person who filmed it used it against them in a public decency charge and the couple asked for the tape back... or they sued for the tape and the guy countered by filing a charge with the police for public lewdness... or something like that.

The result was since they were in plain view from public property the video was deemed to be the property of the person who taped it and I think the lewdness charge held up because they had no reasonable expectation to privacy since the curtains were open and you could see them from the street.

This was only a couple years ago... it may vary state to state though.

but you have no legal right to sell these images of someone else's copyrighted work.

I always think of Warhol's Campbell's Soup Can paintings and the Pop Art movement, a time when many artists made work derived from popular culture. I wonder how that would go in this day and age?

[edited by: Demaestro at 4:33 pm (utc) on July 11, 2007]

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