Did you know that in California, “rights of publicity” are transfered to a celebrity’s heirs after the celebrity dies? This means that photos of the famous individual may continue to be subject to the heir’s licensing fees when the photo owners want to license them out for use in commercial products. A court ruling issued last week provides an interesting case study into how this California law can affect photography rights. PDN writes,
Owners of Marilyn Monroe photographs have won a decisive legal victory [...] which has affirmed that Marilyn Monroe heirs have inherited no rights of publicity to the actress’s likeness.
The decision means that Monroe’s heirs cannot control how images of the actress are used commercially, and cannot demand fees whenever those images are licensed for use on calendars, posters, memorabilia, or other products.
[...] The appeals court affirmed a lower court decision that said Monroe was a New York resident because her heirs had insisted upon that for 40 years in order to avoid paying California taxes. The courts said the heirs cannot now claim Monroe was a California resident in order to take financial advantage of California’s posthumous right of publicity laws.
So basically, if Monroe had been a California resident, using photos of her for commercial purposes would still require hefty fees. Since she wasn’t, photo owners can tap into the lucrative Monroe memorabilia industry — which generated $27 million in 2011 — without paying a dime.
Owners of Marilyn Monroe Photos Win Big Legal Victory Over Actor’s Heirs [PDNPulse]
John Herrman over at BuzzFeed has written up an interesting piece on how and why “grabby” terms of service have become ubiquitous in the online world of social media:
In a world where sharing a photo is strictly a matter of getting another copy made and mailing it, or getting it published, copyrights are pretty easy to keep track of and these laws hold up pretty well. Sending a physical photo to your grandmother goes like this: you either put the picture in an envelope and send it, or you get a copy made yourself and send that.
Sending your grandmother an email photo, though, might involve copying your photo five or six times; first to Google’s servers, then to another server, then to an ISP’s CDN, then to AOL’s servers, then to your grandmother’s computer. As far as you’re concerned, this feels exactly like dropping an envelope in the mail. As far as copyright is concerned, it’s a choreographed legal dance.
And so these sites have to get your permission — a license — to copy and distribute the things you post. Just to function as advertised, they need your permission to “use” and to “host,” to “store” and “reproduce.” What they don’t necessarily need is the right to “modify” and “create derivative works,” or to “publicly perform.” That is, unless they need to make money. Which of course they do.
You Don’t Own Anything Anymore (via APhotoEditor)
Image credit: Large copyright graffiti sign on cream colored wall by Horia Varlan
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?
In just five clicks! (via Techdirt)