View Full Version : More stuff you can't photograph?

David R Munson
7-Feb-2005, 16:40
This is all, of course, completely ridiculous. I would like to make a note regarding Millennium Park, however. I spent most of last year doing freelance assisting work for commercial photographers in Chicago. On a few editorial shoots with a couple different photographers, we worked in Millennium Park. Large format cameras, tripods, battery-powered strobes, big equipment carts, etc. So long as we talked to one of the guards and let the property manager or whoever the head security guy was know what we were doing and for whom, everything was fine. No copyright issues brought up. We even did test shots for a future project literally using the "Bean" as a prop. Had it been, say, an advertising shoot for a big company and not an editorial shoot for Crain's Chicago Business, though, there may have been more to do to get to shoot there.

Oren Grad
7-Feb-2005, 16:40
Millennium Park in Chicago, perhaps?

http://newurbanist.blogspot.com/2005/01/copyrighting-of-public-space.html (http://newurbanist.blogspot.com/2005/01/copyrighting-of-public-space.html)

David Luttmann
7-Feb-2005, 17:05
Don't set up a tripod. Other than that, I dare them to stop me from grabbing a photo in a PUBLIC park!

Kirk Gittings
7-Feb-2005, 17:09
Ironically I was one of the directors of video photography for the Crown Fountain project at Millenium Park. One of my oddest jobs in what has been a very diverse career. But I guess this means that I will not be able to take still photos of my own work!!

http://www.chicagotraveler.com/millennium-photos/P1010239.jpg (http://www.chicagotraveler.com/millennium-photos/P1010239.jpg)

Eric Woodbury
7-Feb-2005, 17:18
Well that's absurd. A 2 dimensional photo is hardly a reproduction of a park. What if you made a painting of it or wrote a book about it -- would that be a violation. Need to send an attorney down there with a tripod. See ya in court.

Christian Olivet
7-Feb-2005, 19:38
A little too funny and painful to see my fellow americans protecting themselves from... From what is the question?

Henry Ambrose
7-Feb-2005, 20:14
So the designer got his own private police force (at public expense) to guard his copyright? Seems the issue would be between the photographer and the artist and the city would have no standing at all. How bizarre. Makes me want to go and make the picture just to show 'em.

chris jordan
7-Feb-2005, 20:15
We call ourselves the land of the free, but there are few places on earth that are as restrictive these days.

The public officials in question need a short course in the law they are supposedly enforcing. What is prohibited is not the actual taking of photographs of copyrighted material; it is the USE of those photographs. It is not a crime to photograph Michael Jordan as he walks down the street, or to photograph a copyrighted book in your studio; it is, however, a violation of CIVIL (not criminal) law to use such photographs for your commercial gain. If you do use them, then the holder of the copyright can sue you in civil court and you can be held liable for money damages. However, there is no CRIMINAL law that allows the police to prohibit you from taking the photos in the first place.

Police are allowed only to enforce criminal laws. They can't walk up to you and make you stop being negligent; nor can they tell you to stop breaching your contract with so-and-so; those are civil law issues that the police have nothing to do with. The only power they have is to prohibit you from violating criminal statutes that are written down in the state or county or city criminal code that is within their jurisdiction.

So, if you are ever stopped in a public place by security guards or police and told "you can't take photos here", just ask them if they are enforcing a criminal statute that prohibits the taking of photographs in this public place. They will have to say no, and then sometimes it helps to ask them if their job is to enforce criminal laws, isn't it? And then you can tell them that there might be some civil law that allows the owner of the copyright to sue you if you make money from your photo, but that there is no criminal law that allows the police to stop you from taking the photo.

I had this conversation with some real hard-asses from the LAPD recently, which resulted in an exhaustive examination of my car registration, drivers licence, insurance, etc., in hopes that they would find some reason to bust me for something else. Then they drove away and said "we don't want to hear about you again" in a threatening tone. I told them if some security guard calls them because I am taking photos in a public place, that is the security guard's problem

Private property is different; the owner of the property gets to make rules about what people do on their property, and one such rule might be "no photographs." If you break their rules, they can kick you out. So if you are in a mall trying to take photos, for example, the security guard does have the right to tell you to stop taking photos or you will be kicked out. This is part of the law of trespass, which does not apply in public places.

We have to assert ourselves in these sad and scary times, to avoid having these freedoms taken away from us, that just a decade ago seemed totally untouchable. Amazing.


Mike Lopez
7-Feb-2005, 22:18
Now I have a question with respect to the answers that have been posted. Chris, we just discussed this sort of thing recently, and maybe you can rattle off the answers.

I have a photography guide book to San Francisco (but the city is probably irrelevant; I think it's part of a series). The book has a section on "photography and the law." This section says that buildings constructed after December 1, 1990 are protected by copyright law. But it goes on to say that the "copyright in an architectural work does not include the right to prevent others from making and distributing photos of the constructed building, if the building is located in a public place or is visible from a public place. So you don't need permission to stand on a public street and photograph a public building." It further says that this exception applies only to buildings, and not to sculptures or monuments, paintings, etc.

Is this still true? One HUGE contradiction to this is that if you set up a tripod and try to photograph a federal building practically anywhere these days, it seems you'll be stopped (I have been). And I can't think of a much more "public" building than that. But aside from that, we're still perfectly within our rights to set up on a sidewalk and point our cameras at pretty much any damn building we please, aren't we? It seems like all we need is the guts to stand up to the cop/security/rent-a-cop/whatever else may try to stop us.

8-Feb-2005, 06:52
In the U.S. , the applicable statute is 17 USC 1, Section 120 (a) (you can find it with google) which provides:

Pictoral Representations Permitted - The copyright in a architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visable from a public place.

I printed a copy of this act and carry it in my camera case just in case. I also take this to mean that commercial photographs (those designed for advertising) are still prohibited without permission.

chris jordan
8-Feb-2005, 10:30
There is a famous tree in Monterey, CA, called the Lone Cypress, which sits on the edge of a cliff in gorgeous twisted ancient form. Nearby is a cheesy lodge that decided to make the lone cypress its logo. So they had an artist make a logo that looks just like the famous Lone Cypress tree. Then they put up a plaque near the real Lone Cypress saying that all photography of the Lone Cypress tree is prohibited! What a friggin joke. The tree is hundreds of years older than the lodge! The sad thing is that virtually everyone who visits the tree obeys the plaque. I went there ane set up my tripod for awhile once, hoping to get caught so I could end up in court and put an end to this shenanigan.

fred arnold
8-Feb-2005, 10:45
That's an interesting situation, as I was there in november with my Mamiya, and photographed (extensively) not only the Bean, but the cops on their segways guarding the Bean. Last summer I ran into a visiting art prof from Cleveland shooting it with his 8x10 Hobo on a tripod, in the middle of everybody, and once again, not a peep. (unless you count a few curious souls wondering about the camera)

Maybe somebody had simply missed their donut break that morning and their blood sugar was a little low?

Pete Watkins
8-Feb-2005, 13:32
Thank God that I live in the UK, the land of the free!

Glenn Kroeger
8-Feb-2005, 14:25
Ahhhh, but we still have important freedoms!

http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/02/08/video.voyeur.ap/index.html (http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/02/08/video.voyeur.ap/index.html)

9-Feb-2005, 04:25
"Then they put up a plaque near the real Lone Cypress saying that all photography of the Lone Cypress tree is prohibited"

Sounds like a job for come creative work with a can of petrol and a match...

David Young
9-Feb-2005, 13:13
>> I went there ane set up my tripod for awhile once, hoping to get caught so I could

>> end up in court and put an end to this shenanigan.

Ah.... the rub is that the Lone Cypress is on PRIVATE PROPERTY... the Lone Cypress is Trademarked (the tree.... not just the logo). The property owners are well within their rights to restrict photography on their property, and to protect their trademark.

Not that I agree with their stand.... but frankly I'd rather shoot the cypress down the road a bit at Point Lobos or even a little further down at Big Sur.

Glenn Kroeger
9-Feb-2005, 17:07
While it is certainly possible to trademark 3-dimensional objects such as trees and control what people do on private property, they cannot prohibit the photography of the tree from public places. For example, assuming I violate no FAA regulations, I can use a plane or helicopter and take photographs of anything on the ground I want. I can also record thermal IR emissions, the magnetic field or take gravity readings or passively acquire any other physical data I wish. Trademark infringement would only come from particular commercial uses of any such photographs.

Mike Baker
13-Dec-2005, 22:25
Very interesting replies. I've taken a number of photos of Millennium Park, on a number of occasions, and have only been questioned by security there once. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was taking pictures (obviously). He said ok, and moved on. I had my full gear, tripod, camera bag with lenses, camera (of course). I guess I'll take j.e. simmons advice...keep a copy of statute (17 USC 1, Section 120 (a)) handy.

Was wondering if I am violating any copyrights if I submit my photos in a contest?
Any guidance would be appreciated.

Ed Richards
14-Dec-2005, 07:20
> I printed a copy of this act and carry it in my camera case just in case. I also take this to mean that commercial photographs (those designed for advertising) are still prohibited without permission.

The copyright on buildings deals with building a copy of the building. You can take commercial photos of the building. The problem comes if you try to use the building as part of your trademark. For example, there is a case about a picture of the rock and roll museum. The court drew the distinction between using the image of the museum as if the owners were endorsing another product, or if your record company wanted to use a picture of the building as its trademark. That would be prohibited. Just selling postcards of the museum was OK. Here is the case on my WWW site:

biotech.law.lsu.edu/cases/IP/trademark/rock_and_roll.htm (http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/cases/IP/trademark/rock_and_roll.htm)

The public sculpure question did not come up last time I taught IP law, but I will check with some copyright experts to see what the law says about that.