Do You Need Permission To Take A Photo With A Chair In It? You Might In France…
from the exactly-wrong dept
The British Journal of Photography (BJP) brings us yet another story of aggressive assertion of copyright wreaking harm on artists — the very people it allegedly empowers. It concerns some photos in Getty Images’ stock library that have chairs in them. Because a few of those chairs are “famous” in the sense that they were produced by a couple of designers that worked with the architect Le Corbusier, the heirs of those designers, together with the Le Corbusier Foundation, have sued Getty Images in France for copyright infringement — and won:
“Basically, there are two notions of copyright going against each other in this particular case,” says [the plaintiffs’ lawyer] de Leusse. “Photographers’ copyright, and the designers’ rights. Very much like a photographer needs the authorisation of people featured in their photos before selling them, they also need the authorisation of the intellectual property rights’ holders when it comes to works of art such as these objects.”
That, of course, raises the question: when is a chair — or any other object — a work of art? Because the logic of the court’s decision would seem to be that before you can take a photo of any “work of art”, you must get permission from the rights holder — but knowing when that is necessary is difficult.
Getty Images is apparently trying to push that problem on to its contributing photographers, judging by an email sent to them, and reported in the BJP article quoted above:
You are responsible under your agreements with us to submit only content for which you have the necessary rights. Using this case as an example, while you may hold a copyright in a particular image or clip, if it contains even a fraction of a Le Corbusier piece then you may not have all the necessary rights under French law to provide that content and therefore may be liable for copyright infringement under French law in respect of the furniture featured.
This ruling will surely lead to an escalation of claims in France against photographers for daring to “infringe” on the rights of someone by including “even a fraction” of an object in their photos — perhaps unwittingly. Which, in its turn, will inevitably have a chilling effect on photographers’ spontaneity and choice of subject-matter, as they try to avoid getting sued by shooting only the most generic of objects, and under tightly-controlled conditions.
And so, once again, the assertion of an intellectual monopoly will lead to an overall reduction in creativity, with both artists and society losing out — exactly the opposite of what it is supposed to happen.