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Author Topic: Copyright laws of image of someone else's work  (Read 668 times)

Lawlessmind

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Copyright laws of image of someone else's work
« on: 12-20-17 at 03:50 pm »

Hello all,

This is my first post and I know almost absolutely nothing about the law so I need some guidance and everyone to bare with me please.

I'm trying to understand copyright laws about a photographer taking pictures of another artist's work, i.e. paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc. in public places.

What rights does the each person have to the image (the artist and photographer). What rights does the photographer have to use the image of the other artist's work?
Also what if the artist isn't known?

Would greatly appreciate any reference!
Thanks all for your time and patience.
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Robert T Nicholson

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Re: Copyright laws of image of someone else's work
« Reply #1 on: 12-20-17 at 05:08 pm »

There are two potential copyrights involved here.

Let's assume that the painting is still protected by copyright.  In that case, the photograph would violate the painter's copyright, and the photo could not be distributed without the permission of the painter.

Now let's consider the photo.  In order to qualify for copyright protection, a work must be an "original work of authorship."  The key word here is "original" - you could think of this as creativity.

If the photographer simply takes a direct, straight-on photo of the painting, it probably does not qualify for copyright protection.  But if the artist employed creative lighting, photographed the painting from an artistic angle, or took other measures to create an original work, then the photo itself may qualify for copyright protection.

In that case, the photo could not be distributed without the permission of both the painter and the photographer. 

Of course, if the copyright on the painting has expired, then only the photographer's rights would need to be considered.

Now for your final question:  a painting can still be protected by copyright, even if the painter is not known.  The protection depends on the age of the painting (see the link below).  If copyright protection still applies, but the photographer cannot identify or locate the painter, then the photographer cannot distribute the photo.



Here is a good reference for how long copyright applies:

https://copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain

« Last Edit: 12-20-17 at 05:14 pm by artchain »
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This post is provided for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice.

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CRfan

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Re: Copyright laws of image of someone else's work
« Reply #2 on: 01-04-18 at 07:08 pm »

Artchain answers this question really well:  “If the photographer simply takes a direct, straight-on photo of the painting, it probably does not qualify for copyright protection.”

If the painter is asking me to photograph his/her painting (match color and everything), I won’t be able to claim any copyright authorship, as I’m not creating an original work—I’m simply making an exact copy on to a different medium.

On the other hand, when I photograph 3D sculpture artworks, I have lots of creative tools to identify the sculpture’s striking features:  Different photo angles; lighting set-ups with one or more lights (hard to soft light to grid/pin-point accent lights); selective background (dark to white); wide or longer lenses to compress the sculpture to the most pleasing angle of view; etc. 

Here, I would register these (my) photographs with the US Copyright Office, but disclaim the original sculpture artwork.  I would also get the artist to acknowledge my photography creativity via a licensing agreement where my photographs would be attributed with my photo copyright and URL, after the artist sculpture’s copyright attribution.
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