English Heritage Organization Claiming It Holds Effective Copyright On Any And All Photos Of Stonehenge

from the stoned-henge dept

Every so often we hear of groups or organizations taking a rather expansive view of copyright law, but English Heritage, a UK gov’t-backed organization to (you guessed it) promote English heritage and manage various historical sites, may have pushed the extremes to new levels. Boing Boing has the story of how it has sent a letter to a bunch of photosharing and stock photo sites claiming that all images of Stonehenge “can not be used for any commercial interest” and that “all commercial interest to sell images must be directed to English Heritage.” Of course, that’s blatantly ridiculous.

One recipient of the letter, the site FotoLibra, is trying to figure out on what legal basis English Heritage is making this claim, noting that Stonehenge “has been their responsibility for 27 of the monument’s 4,500 year old history.” Of course, just about the only thing this will probably serve to do is make people a lot less interested in visiting Stonehenge, photographing Stonehenge and getting others to go to Stonehenge.

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Comments on “English Heritage Organization Claiming It Holds Effective Copyright On Any And All Photos Of Stonehenge”

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44 Comments
ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

That may be the point

“Of course, just about the only thing this will probably serve to do is make people a lot less interested in visiting Stonehenge, photographing Stonehenge and getting others to go to Stonehenge.”

Considering that visitors are the greatest threat to the monument, I have to wonder if that’s their real intent.

vbevan (profile) says:

Do google get a letter too?

Considering google get money from their maps/street view app indirectly via ads, will they be getting a letter too. Why go to stock images after all, the street view of Stonehenge is just amazing, not to mention the 100+ visitor photos also accessible through google maps view of the site.

You can even street view from inside of the structure. I’m guessing it’s a bunch of 50+ yr olds who just took their fundraising cake sale a little too far.

http://goo.gl/e68b

Karl (profile) says:

Look at it from their point of view...

The purpose of copyright law is to promote progress, right? Without absolute control over every conceivable image, how will religious groups be encouraged to build more mysterious stone monuments?

Think about it – the sphynx is 5000 years old, stonehenge is 4500 years old, and the moai statues of Easter Island are only 500 years old. While these once were obviously commonly built, there haven’t been any mysterious stone monuments built in centuries! It’s quite obvious that the lack of copyright is what’s preventing more of these sort of things from being created – just like it’s the lack of pirates that’s causing global warming!

We must encourage groups like to EHO to make these claims – it’s the only way to get people to contribute to our culture!

Niall (profile) says:

Fantastic comments!

I really like a couple of the comments in the boingboing article:

redsquare said:

I thought everyone knew that cameras, or ‘Photonic Rippers’, are used only to pirate and profit off the stolen reflected light.

I guess stonehenge is one of those “No derivative works” things, though I didn’t know you could claim ownership on the output of a program, I mean, rock.

and xzzy added:

Technically, they’re profiting off the capture of photons reflected off Stonehenge. Those beams of light would have reflected off the structure whether a camera had been there or not, so there’s no way one can reasonably argue that it generates a maintenance burden.

Prashanth (profile) says:

It isn't the first time

I remember rereading a few years ago Roald Dahl’s publication of the story about Gordon Butcher and the Mildenhall Treasure. Basically, a man named Gordon Butcher accidentally stumbled upon ancient Roman silverware when plowing another man’s field for-hire. Due to English law at that time, despite the fact that the silverware was found on private property, it (all gold and silver items) had to go to the Crown’s museum. This is certainly pathetic, but it isn’t the first such occurrence of a British national entity claiming ownership over things that clearly aren’t theirs.

Call me Al says:

Re: It isn't the first time

Prashanth I’m afraid that isn’t quite accurate.

The law at the time in the UK meant that the finder and / or the landowner would receive payment of the value of the treasure. They didn’t just pinch it.

Though it is quite possible that the finder could have received more money on the open market.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Been to Stonehenge, taken numerous pictures of it and of the buriel hill on the other side of the highway too.

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to “English Heritage” for explaining that these photos not only hold personal sentimental value but also it seems high commercial value as well.

I mustr contact them and ask if they would like to purchase copies of them for their archives, at a reasonable price and since copyright (even under UK law.. ie: Act of Queen Anne) retains with the original photographer (oh thats myself) I will then place them up for sale and expect a nice little money earner over the next few years.

WOOT!

Might even make a T-Shirt..

“I went to Stonehenge.. took a photo and made this T-shirt..Wanna buy one?”

😉

Anonymous Coward says:

UK Copyrights

I wish you would remember that we are subjects of the Queen in the UK. Copyright in the UK is nothing to do with furthering the Arts.
It is a consession by the Her Majesties Government that we are allowed to copy some things. It is just that English Heritage (a QUANGO – part of the Government) have decided that we no longer have the right to duplicate our own photographs of Stonehenge without their permission – particularly if any money is involved.
Actually with all the Government spending cuts they are probably desperate to find alternative revenues – expect more clamp downs.

dry cleaned lawsuit says:

sue everyone

I’m confused about how this can be copyrighted. I’m no expert in photography related copyright law, but I do know that copyright’s usually expire a few decades after the death of the creator or similar.

I do like this however. By the same merit, I can send such a copyright notice to anyone who takes a photo of my house and uses it commercially.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don't See the Problem

Just because the site is 4500 years old doesn’t mean that the photographs are not new art or something along those lines. The rocks are constantly changing even if the human eye can’t see it and so Stonehenge as we see it is not that old at all. Therefore, it should be a protected right. Heisenberg uncertainty and all. There.

ChoccyHobNob (profile) says:

Reply from English Heritage

his document has been sent to you from:

Ms R L McKellar
English Heritage
Customer Services
Po Box 569
SWINDON
SN2 2YP

Document Precis:

Dear Mr Xxxxxx,

Reference: xxxxxxxxx

Thank you for your email regarding photography at Stonehenge.

English Heritage looks after Stonehenge on behalf of the nation. But we do not control the copyright of all images of Stonehenge. And we have never tried to do so. We have no problem with photographers sharing images of Stonehenge on Flickr and similar not-for-profit image websites. We encourage visitors to the monument to take their own photographs.

If a commercial photographer enters the land within our care with the intention of taking a photograph of the monument for financial gain, we ask that they pay a fee and abide by certain conditions. English Heritage is a non-profit making organisation and this fee helps preserve and protect Stonehenge for the benefit of future generations. The majority of commercial photographers respect this position and normally request permission in advance of visiting.

I am sorry for any confusion caused by a recent email sent to a picture library.

Yours sincerely

Rae Mckellar
Correspondence Team Manager

Rob Pollock says:

Has bureaucracy become completely un-henged?

This wooly minded nonsense about barring use of Stonehenge photos shows how limited has become the thinking and vision of the bureaucrats. Tourists and travellers might decide to boycott the historic site until the bureaucratic bullies are swept from their offices and replaced by sane and sensible people.

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