Category Archives: Copyright

In a Mermaid Statue, Danes Find Something Rotten in State of Michigan

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

This town’s statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” is a symbol of its proud Danish heritage. Now some are saying she doesn’t have permission to be in the country.

In a Mermaid Statue, Danes Find Something Rotten in State of Michigan Timothy Aeppel WSJ 7/27/09 


New @ the A&A, Wall and Piece by Banksy


Via Random House: “Artistic genius, political activist, painter and decorator, mythic legend or notorious graffiti artist? The work of Banksy is unmistakable, except maybe when it’s squatting in the Tate or New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Banksy is responsible for decorating the streets, walls, bridges and zoos of towns and cites throughout the world.”

More from wikipedia here and check out an interesting discussion of copyright laws as they pertain to Banksy and other graffiti artists here.

Posted by Chris

“In the Face of Danger”

A recent article in the Harvard Law Review presents several fascinating and potentially scary problems with social tagging and photographic sites like Flickr. The article posits that new facial recognition technologies may pose serious privacy issues on public photo-sharing sites and that our current regime for privacy law is ill-equipped to deal with these emerging technologies. A must read! Download a PDF here.

“In the Face of Danger: Facial Recognition and Limits of Privacy Law,” Harvard Law Review; May2007, Vol. 120 Issue 7, p1870-1891, 22p.

Flickr case highlights digital copyright issue

Rebekka Gudleifsdóttir

Yahoo ‘censored’ Flickr comments
BBC News, May 18, 2007

“Late last year photographer Rebekka Gudleifsdóttir discovered that eight of her pictures were reportedly being sold by a UK-based online gallery. She raised the issue on Flickr but a photo and comments were deleted. Yahoo, which had no involvement in the row over the sale of the photos, has now apologised for its “mistake”.”

See what Zooomr CEO Thomas Hawk has to say about the issue here. And check out some interesting debate at here.

Posted by Chris

Fair Use Project on NPR

NPR’s Morning Edition featured a segment on Stanford’s Fair Use Project this morning:

“The Fair Use Project at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society seeks to lay the groundwork for artists and academics to use copyrighted work without permission in certain situations.”

Listen to the segment here.

Posted by: Ian M.

Public Domain Imagery Redux

Lewis Hine's Powerhouse Mechanic, 1920

Lewis Hine, Powerhouse Mechanic, 1920 – Don’t buy this image image! It’s in the public domain and can be obtained through the National Archives here.

A few weeks ago I posted a screed against large photographic stock companies like Corbis and Getty selling images in the public domain. Turns out, there is a legal precedent for this very behavior and guess what, it’s potentially illegal! At the very least, the reproductions being sold are likely not copyrightable.

In 1999, Lewis A. Kaplan, U.S. District Judge, Southern District of New York, wrote the opinion on the case Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. against Corel Corporation, in which Bridgeman sued Corel Corp. for releasing a CD-ROM of reproductions of public domain artworks Bridgeman allegedly controlled. The court decided that reproductions of public domain works are not copyrightable because they lack originality and the express purpose is to provide a surrogate of the work represented. To quote Judge Kaplan’s opinion, which can be found in its entirety here:

“While it may be assumed that this [reproducing the works in question] required both skill and effort, there was no spark of originality – indeed, the point of the exercise was to reproduce the underlying works with absolute fidelity. Copyright is not available in these circumstances.”

The decision quotes a previous case, too, which eloquently states:

“Absent a genuine difference between the underlying work of art and the copy of it for which protection is sought, the public interest in promoting progress in the arts – indeed, the constitutional demand [citation omitted] – could hardly be served. To extend copyrightability to minuscule variations would simply put a weapon for harassment in the hands of mischievous copiers intent on appropriating and monopolizing public domain work. Even in Mazer v. Stein, [347 U.S. 201 (1954)], which held that the statutory terms ‘works of art’ and ‘reproduction of works of art’. . . permit copyright of quite ordinary mass-produced items, the Court expressly held that the objects to be copyrightable, ‘must be original, that is, the author’s tangible expression of his ideas.’ 347 U.S. at 214, 74 S.Ct. 468, 98 L.Ed. at 640. No such originality, no such expression, no such ideas here appear.”

To find more information about cases involving art, technology, copyright, and intellectual property, see the Fair Use Network’s Reference Cases page here.

Posted by: Ian M.

Corbis: O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?

Dorothea Lange, “Migrant Mother,” (1936), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection.

It’s not easy (read: profitable) owning a large portion of U.S. visual culture. Today’s New York Times business section contains an article about Corbis, the giant photographic archives/licensing business owned by Bill Gates, describing the challenges Corbis faces as it tries to become profitable in a marketplace with more and more “microstock agencies” offering imagery at rock-bottom rates. What’s even more interesting is that 2 of the images mentioned and displayed in the article’s slide-show are, almost certainly, in the public domain, which eliminates the need to consult Corbis or any other for profit agency altogether. Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” was created with government funds (the Farm Security Administration) and is available through the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and the photograph of John F. Kennedy by Cecil Stoughton is most likely in the public domain because Stoughton was employed by the Kennedy Administration – making his photos of Kennedy government documents. Many of Stoughton’s images are available at the JFK Library and Museum, which lists them in the public domain.

Now, perhaps I am engaging in unnecessary hand-wringing, but it is important to be aware that agencies like Corbis, while useful and possessing amazing collections, are also somewhat unscrupulous when it comes to selling images that we, as U.S. citizens, collectively own.

The sound you may be hearing right now is me being pushed off my soapbox.

A Photo Trove, a Mounting Challenge,” Katie Hafner, New York Times, April 10, 2007.

On a related note, Corbis’s facilities at Iron Mountain in rural southwest Pennsylvania are truly incredible. Tours are available for official groups who get the proper clearances. Iron Mountain also holds government records, the Census Bureau has its own underground zip code, so security is, well, fairly high.

Posted by: Ian M.

You’re Not the Boss of Me

Bound By Law? cover
Tales From the Public Domain: Bound By Law? Created by Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain

This weekend at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh: “You’re Not the Boss of Me: Copyright and Transgression Festival.”

“Artists, critics, lawyers and filmmakers will discuss copyright, criminality, fair use and transgression in contemporary American culture as they relate to issues of cultural ownership and cultural heritage in an informal and open forum.”

The festival features a lecture by Duke Law professor James Boyle, Director of the Duke Center for the Public Domain, artist Jacob Ciocci (co-founder of Paper Rad, see previous post), and a performance by the white-hot mash up artist Girl Talk, among others. Go here for the full schedule.

Posted by: Ian McDermott

Fair Use and James Joyce

The Fair Use Project (FUP) is part of the Center for Internet and Society (CIS), an arm of the Stanford Law School.  FUP has done significant work in the area of fair use in the arts. They have been engaged in a high-profile case involving a Stanford professor’s battles with the James Joyce Estate over the use of written materials in a biography on Lucia Joyce, the author’s daughter.

“Last June we sued the Estate of James Joyce to establish the right of Stanford Professor Carol Shloss to use copyrighted materials in connection with her scholarly biography of Lucia Joyce. Shloss suffered more than ten years of threats and intimidation by Stephen James Joyce, who purported to prohibit her from quoting from anything that James or Lucia Joyce ever wrote for any purpose. As a result of these threats, significant portions of source material were deleted from Shloss’s book, Lucia Joyce: To Dance In The Wake.”

The case was recently settled. Read about it here.

Posted by: Ian McDermott