Ubiquitous cameras and copyright. Again.

Marcel Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q

A brief article from the New York Times, When it’s illegal to photograph artwork, suggests it’s illegal to photograph any other artwork under any circumstances unless the work is in the public domain. The impetus for the article was the writer’s own thought that a cheap way to obtain artwork for your home would be to blow up and frame a photo you took yourself at a gallery. Which my wife pointed out — I was very proud of her when she said this — isn’t at all the same thing as actually hanging a work of art on your wall.

My apologies to Karen Krull Robarts. And as a sidenote Karen, I think I dreamt about owning one of your works last night. Some day I will make it a reality!

The comments on the Times article are what makes this all worth posting on. I’m going to relay a few of them here and let the rest be hashed out in the comments, if you feel as though there’s anything to hash.

  • You should research architecture copyright. Can you legally take a photo of a building, even with someone standing in front as a tourist?
  • Yet another discussion of copyright issues that totally ignores the legal concept of Fair Use. [sigh]
  • Contrary to the wishes of many rights holders, all unauthorized copying of copyrighted works is not infringement. Fair use is a public right vis a vis all works. Taking a photo of a work for personal or academic use would likely be found to be a fair use. Similar to sending a xerox of a newspaper article to a daughter.
  • And all those young artists with sketchpads sitting in museums whom we have seen over the years?
  • Think of the large, flat-screen televisions hanging on millions of living-room walls. Most of the time the TV is dark, like a missing tooth. Now imagine that the TV is connected to a web site that has thousands of high-quality art images available to be viewed. What a wonderful experience it would be to have those images available, perhaps through a monthly subscription. If Google can scan millions of books, it surely could scan at most a hundred thousand key works of art. The museums that own the art would receive a recurring payment stream.

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

4 Responses to Ubiquitous cameras and copyright. Again.

  1. Marissa says:

    Another example of how flawed the idea of intellectual copyright is. If a private museum wants to ban photography that is totally within their rights. But other than that this is so silly. The flaw has been there from the start, but it took the rapid availability of affordable quality photographs and digital printing for it to be brought.

  2. Buzz Tatom says:

    As a digital commercial printer in Dallas, Tx the progress of digital printing has changed all kinds of uses and infringements. It is very easy now to copy things. Does not make it right.

    Not only art but for instance due to digital printing the laws of printing pictures of currencies changed dramatically. Before digital it was very different in the US.

  3. Julie says:

    What an irritatingly lousy article. Summary: you can’t photograph artwork to reproduce in your home; it’s illegal. I guess the author was too ill-informed to make it any more interesting than that by discussing the myriad of other purposes for reproduction and the decisions and controversy surrounding them. At least the comments are slightly more insightful.

    • pcNielsen says:

      Indeed. I thought the same, but didn’t see that as part of the post. There are, still, actually, it seems . . . a lot of people, artists and otherwise, who believe copyright is as simple as this .

      It is not, ESPECIALLY since the advent of the internet.

      And, yes, insightful comments a lot of them. Which frankly is somewhat rare on a lot of significant blogs/websites. The one pertaining to architecture was particularly interesting to me.

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