View Full Version : Photographs of scultures and copyrights infringement

Bruno Di Nunzio
24-Aug-2004, 06:14
Recently I took several pictures of details from sculptures of a contemporary sculputer. No one ask me to do that and the idea, my personal idea, was to give my own interpretation of his work that I like very much.

The photos are very interesting and the situation is this: I like the work I have done, a lot of people like it and ...... and also the author likes it. Yes, I had the opportunity to show it to him :-) and he also congratulated with me!

But now, I think to have a problem. I would like to make a show of this work because the work I have done is very nice indeed. However the situation for me is a bit confusing because I don't think the author will ever help me in arranging the show because he is not a photoghapher, he made the whole sculpure not only the details and he is so well known around the World that he doesn't need me!

I don't know how this situation will end up and, in the case, what the show title will be. However the questions are valid: Am I infringing copyright rights of the author? Can I use this pictures for the show or for selling?

Many thanks

Gem Singer
24-Aug-2004, 06:38
Hi Bruno,

Are these sculptures on public display? If yes, there is probably no problem. If no, there might be a problem. Either way, it may be a good idea to ask the sculpturer for his permission. It probably would help if you give him a set of your signed prints when you approach him to discuss the matter.

Bruno Di Nunzio
24-Aug-2004, 07:56
Hi Eugene,

He made two public show in Paris and Switzerland: that is the sculptures have been on public display and my shots have been taken in this cities.

You are right it is a good idea to ask for his permission and I will do that. I'd like to give him a set of signed prints but .... they are almost 50 and should be printed in 20x24 format. Pretty expensive, isn't it. As soon as I will find a sponsor for the show I can afford the gift.

David L.
24-Aug-2004, 09:40
Bruno, which copyright jurisdiction are you referring to? U.S.? France? Mongolia?

Ralph Barker
24-Aug-2004, 09:42
My suggestion, Bruno, would be to research copyright law in the country (or countries) in which your prints will be displayed. While there is some international agreement, laws in specific countries do vary on some details. Getting the sculptor's "permission" would be ideal, but he or she should be credited in your display, regardless, just as a matter of courtesy, if nothing else.

Bruno Di Nunzio
24-Aug-2004, 10:01
I live in Italy

gene LaFord
24-Aug-2004, 10:32
Bruno, RalPh is right, make sure you give the scupltor ample credit, even to the point of his/her name being in the exhibit's title and any artist's statment by yourself. And ask for permission. Also, you don't have to give the artist a copy of each print (not economical), but let him/her pick out a few. As a former sculptor, I can see your exhibit as good advertising for this artist's work. Good luck.


Tim Curry
24-Aug-2004, 13:58

Before you use the name of a well known sculptor, you shold get his permission in writing. This will give you the ability to do the show, present the work, credit the sculptor and protect yourself from any problems which may arise. If you have his blessing, you are then covered for your show.

Check the copyright laws regarding a sale of your prints. There may or may not be a problem with selling an image of his work, even thought it is technically your work on the print. This is a very interesting question.

Ted Harris
24-Aug-2004, 15:10

I don't believe that any of the responses you have received have come from copyright attorneys, especially Italian copyright attorneys and that is what you need for a definitive legal answer.

Your willingness to go to all this trouble is admirable since most folk don't bother. Just to show you that the copyright question can get a LOT more complicated than indicted in the earlier responses here is a recent situation:

I am a Rotarian and a few month sago I was asked to produce the cover for our Rotary District's annual conference which was being held in Quebec City. I asked some of the members of this list if they would be so kind as to contribute a work of theirs for proper credit and some did .. thanks to all of you. Unfortunately "the powers that be" didnít think any of the photos I sent them were representative enough of Quebec city or jazzy enough, etc.....the client is always right, right? So, I searched and I found a painting that I quite liked and that I thought would do well for the cover. "The powers that be" agreed so I proceeded.

I contacted the museum where the painting hangs and they informed me that the artist still owns the rights and needed to confirm that we could use a photograph of the painting. I contacted the artist and he agreed. I then informed the museum and they told me that I further needed to submit a formal request to them to either a)use their official photograph of the painting to which they retained copyright even though the artist had granted permission to use 'a reproduction or b) request permission to photograph the painting myself with the understanding that my photography would be for the limited one time use on our cover.

I told them their official photo was fine as long as i had permission to copy it and use it on the cover with proper credit to the artist, the photographer and the museum. All permissions were granted but, even with as much speed as all could muster it still took two months of email (in two languages) and a number of phone calls. I also made a personal visit to the artist in Montreal and things could have taken even longer without that visit.

This is not meant ot be at all discouraging just to point out that copyright matters are frequently far more complicated than we think.

Bruno Di Nunzio
25-Aug-2004, 03:08
I would like to share with you my comments.

Ethical aspects:

I've been onored to receive a letter from the artist in which he congratulates with me asking to meet me. Even more when he asked me to make the shots for his personal catalogue after having told him that I am not a professional ( actually, I am an aeronautical engineer). So everything sound good but....but what about my shots. They are b&w not colour, they are interpretations not close-up pictures. For me they represent a new form of communication.

But sometimes I wonder if I have made something good and original or just some shots that maybe can be used for the catalogue. It's true, someone can say that I've only made some close-up photographs. I also had thoughts and doubts like this but believe me, when you see the pictures you will see something else it is like having grasped the soul from those scultpures. If you know the artist you recognaize him but the pictures I've made are driving you into a different world.

I am not an artist but I believe that the work is original, very well made and it is worthy of a show.

Technical aspects:

What I have done it is original or not?

I have to find out the way to involve important people because of the importance of the artist but how can I involve these people since I am nothing? What kind of credits do I have?

On the other hand, I don't think the artist can have an active role for two reasons, first because I am the author and second because it would be a mix of contradiction and apology of himself.

I do feel very confused and I think this situation is a mess as soon as it goes out from the walls of my house. May be I am pretending to much.

Ted, thanks for your words. I am dealing with a great artist. I don't want to spoil it all, but I think I need to understand what I have done.