If a stranger suddenly grabs your camera and takes a photograph, who owns the copyright to that photograph? Photographer Mirjam Letsch writes,
Walking in an Indian bazaar, my Nikon dangling on my shoulder, this boy quickly clicked five times. I really liked the creative result when I later saw these images! Don’t know who owns the copyright though!
This might seem like a pretty farfetched example, but what about a case where you carefully set up and compose a fine art photograph, then for some reason ask a stranger to press the shutter for you?
A photograph is a mechanical representation of facts. This is unlike a painting, which is a non-mechanical representation of something—be it facts, such as an attempt to paint an outdoor scene or create a portrait of someone, or imagination in the form of how the artist sees the world, such as the Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night painting. Paintings, therefore, are pure expressions of ideas or facts. Photographs, however, are mechanical expressions of facts.
[...] extending copyright protection beyond the mechanical copying of a photograph (i.e., scanning it and sending it to all your friends) is extending copyrights in photographs too far. The expression of a photograph cannot be separated from its factual reproduction of actual events. Attempting to do so leads to absurd results.
Therefore, a bright-line rule should reserve copyright protection in photographs only for the reproduction of those photographs. Copyright protection should not extend to the elements within the photographs themselves—doing so results in copyrighting facts, which is beyond the scope of copyright law.
It’s a pretty length piece, but well worth a read. What’s your opinion on this issue? Should the elements within a photograph be covered by copyright protection?
The debate regarding what makes a photograph “truthful” or not is probably as old as the art of photography itself. By sheer coincidence, there were a couple interesting articles published today on this issue, and written from two different points-of-view. Read more…
Ever wonder why certain people always seem to engage in meaningless Canon vs Nikon vs et al. camera brand debates at every opportunity? A recent study conducted at the University of Illinois has found that the more knowledge and experience you have with a particular brand, the stronger your self-esteem is tied to it. Ars Technica writes,
Those who had high self-brand connections (SBC)—that is, those who follow, research, or simply like a certain brand—were the ones whose self esteem suffered the most when their brands didn’t do well or were criticized. Those with low SBC remained virtually unaffected on a personal level.
The residual effect of this is that those with high SBCs tend to discount negative news about their favorite brands, and sometimes even ignore it altogether in favor of happier thoughts.
So that’s why feathers are so easily ruffled when camera brands are bashed…
503.03 Works not capable of supporting a copyright claim.
Claims to copyright in the following works cannot be registered in the Copyright Office:
503.03(a) Works-not originated by a human author.
In order to be entitled to copyright registration, a work must be the product of human authorship. Works produced by mechanical processes or random selection without any contribution by a human author are not registrable. Thus, a linoleum floor covering featuring a multicolored pebble design which was produced by a mechanical process in unrepeatable, random patterns, is not registrable. Similarly, a work owing its form to the forces of nature and lacking human authorship is not registrable; thus, for example, a piece of driftwood even if polished and mounted is not registrable.
Is a photograph taken by a monkey the product of human authorship? On one hand, the monkey pressed the shutter, but you also can’t argue that a human author didn’t contribute, since they had to have provided the camera in the first place (unless the monkey stole it or something…). TechDirt believes the photos are in the public domain.
Nikon has a support page for people who wonder why the company hasn’t added sensor-shift image stabilization to its DSLRs. The first point is that stabilizing the image before it enters the camera allows the user to see exactly what the sensor “sees” through the viewfinder, and allows the autofocus and metering sensors to take advantage of this stabilized image as well. Secondly, they state that they can optimize the system for each lens to achieve finely tuned stabilization that gains extra stops of light over sensor-based systems.
CNBC ran this short segment a couple days ago in which they invited CNET’s Dan Ackerman to explain the changing landscape in the digital camera industry. He thinks point-and-shoot cameras may soon become extinct due to the rise of camera-equipped phones, but also that DSLRs are the cameras here to stay. A recent study found that phones have replaced digital cameras completely for 44% of consumers, and that number seems bound to rise as the cameras on phones continue to improve.
My guess is that in five years, we’ll see digital camera users divided into three camps: mobile phone, interchangeable lens compact, and DSLR. What’s your prediction?
Kodak uploaded a video to YouTube recently thats been causing quite a bit of controversy. It’s a talk by Rob Hummel at Cine Gear Expo 2011 in which he states that bringing your digital camera onto an airplane will damage its sensor and cause dead pixels (it’s about 8min into the video). The reasoning is that at altitudes of 20,000ft and higher, you would need 125ft of concrete to shield yourself from the gamma rays, which induce voltages in the sensors and fry the photo sites. He also claims that manufacturers only transport cameras by sea, and that they all keep quiet about this because they fear a class action lawsuit.
The comments on the YouTube video and the dpreview forums are filled with people who believe that this is simply an attempt by Kodak to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) over digital cameras in an effort to lure more people to using film. So, which is it? Fact or FUD?
The legal battle between photographer Mike Hipple and sculptor Jack Mackie over a photo of Mackie’s public art piece “Dance Steps on Broadway” has ended with Hipple paying a settlement out of court. Mackie writes,
Anyone can make photographs of any public art and do most anything they want with the photograph. Private photos are most likely not infringements. People can frame them and give them to their uncles and aunts as gifts, they can post them on their facebook pages, or they can make Valentines with them and give them away. What they can not do, and this was the basis for the lawsuit, is offer to commercially sell them, which Mr. Hipple did, at least twice.
[...] The legal issues surrounding this case have always been clear and obvious. Instead of acceding to the clarity of the law, Mr. Hipple attempted numerous defenses. Mr. Hipple pleaded that because my art work is popular I should no longer be allowed to hold copyright. Tell that to Walt Disney. Mr. Hipple pleaded that one can not copyright public art. Tell that to the US Registrar of Copyrights. Mr. Hipple claimed that my art work is “instructional” and that his photograph “depicts dancing.” Taking him up on this argument we produced an image of his photograph containing my Dance Steps juxtaposed to an image of his carefully posed shoe model on a blank sidewalk [shown above]. Does his image without the Steps “depict dancing?” You decide.