Copyright

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
copyright, museum, selfies



Could Taking A Selfie In A Museum Violate Copyright Law?

from the of-course-it-could dept

Copyright infringement is everywhere. A few years back, John Tehranian wrote a paper (and then a book*) called "Infringement Nation" about just how much copyright infringement happens incidentally on a daily basis. The conclusion, from a back of the envelope estimate, is that an average person is likely liable for $4.544 billion in incidental infringement in a normal year. And that's not for sharing music and movies and what not, but just doing the normal everyday things you do.

With the news that the National Gallery in the UK has rescinded its long-standing "no photographs" rule, it appears that another opportunity for incidental and accidental infringement has been unleashed upon people in the UK. The National Gallery apparently realized that with everyone carrying a smartphone these days (and the fact that it offers free WiFi that it encourages patrons to use), it became kind of ridiculous to try to block photographs while encouraging people to use their phones to research the artwork they were looking at.

However, the original notice noted that "temporary" exhibits will still have restrictions on photography "for reasons of copyright." But, as IPKat notes above, it's not clear why that should only apply to the temporary exhibits, since many of the permanent exhibit works are still under copyright as well (though the museum itself might also hold the copyright on many of those works). Either way, IPKat wonders if merely including a piece of copyright-covered artwork in the background of a photo -- such as a selfie -- might lead to claims of infringement. While some countries have freedom of panorama laws** that say it's okay to represent artistic works on public display, that apparently does not apply to paintings (though it does apply to sculptures).

In the end, it appears that while it may be unlikely to get sued over taking a selfie in the National Gallery, if you're the extra cautious type, you might want to avoid it for fear of yet another ridiculous copyright claim. As IPKat notes, the caselaw is at least ambiguous enough that if someone wanted to go after you for your selfie with fine art, you might be in trouble. That this end result is ridiculous and kind of stupid isn't really discussed in the piece, but seems rather obvious. Yes, it may be unlikely that a lawsuit will come out of it, but we've seen sillier lawsuits in the past, and I doubt it would surprise many if this new policy also results in a lawsuit down the road. Because that's just the way copyright works.

* Speaking of Tehranian's book. According to Amazon you can currently get a Kindle ebook copy for... just $39.99! Yes, an ebook for $40. It almost makes me wonder if they're demonstrating the insanity of copyright laws, in a book about how silly copyright law is, by pricing it at an insane price.

** On that note, I have to admit my knowledge of such "freedom of panorama" laws was fairly limited, but it seems ridiculous that no one is considering passing such a law in the US. The number of stories of people getting sued for photographs of public displays is getting silly here.

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  • icon
    ShawnT (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 9:18pm

    Well

    Wikimedia Commons has a full on, country-by-country breakdown of these laws worldwide.

    https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Freedom_of_panorama

    In the UK, it is not considered an infringement to photograph architecture, three-dimensional artwork, and "works of artistic craftsmanship", if it is permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public. Just don't take photos of the temporary exhibitions or paintings whose author has not died within at least the last 70 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Whatever (profile), 22 Sep 2014 @ 10:42pm

    good story... but

    Well, as per usual, what is missing here is that little concept called "common sense" and "practical application of the law". Nobody is going to get sued for a selfie that doesn't show anything in particular, but generally if they say "don't take pictures here" then a selfie would get you in trouble.

    The "4.55 billion" story you point to is also pretty much a crock of shit. You don't see people getting sued for copyright infringement as a result of unintentional appearance of copyright items in personal pictures. Forwarding a picture someone sent you be email to someone else? Are you kidding me? Posting it up on social media might be an issue, but private one to one email pretty much shows no intent to violate anything.

    Trying to use stuff like this to condemn copyright is pretty much the biggest reach possible - and pretty sad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2014 @ 11:31pm

      Re: good story... but

      So if I emailed 1 song to someone, that is not copyright infringement, what about 2? how about 100?

      Why do you think that pictures in an art gallery do not deserve the same copyright enforcement as a movie in a movie cinema?

      Do you have a list of these laws that you think that it is OK to ignore, and what is the arbitrary limit that you think is where the line should be drawn?

      So if I take a selfie, with copyrighted material in the background, then make a million dollars from that selfie, is that copyright infringement? what about if I only made $1000, or If I only made $1?

      This is why idiots like you and the rest of the maximalists are not respected by anyone with any sense of morals.

      You state that no one will be sued for copyright infringement for doing something, then when it happens, you spout off about how the law is the law and there is no excuse for breaking the law.

      WANKER

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        Whatever (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 1:26am

        Re: Re: good story... but

        Thanks for the ad hom. Perhaps a few people will down vote your obvious personal attacks. One can hope, right?

        My examples were all related to personal use, not commercial ends. So the selfie that sells for millions... yeah, guess what - it's commercial and those who can will certainly come after you for their money. A selfie that you just send to your friends won't get much attention, would it?

        Do you have a list of these laws that you think that it is OK to ignore, and what is the arbitrary limit that you think is where the line should be drawn?

        No, it is called common sense and tolerance. The "beeeeeelions of dollars" example is a crock of shit because it cites examples where there are few if any cases EVER.

        So if I emailed 1 song to someone, that is not copyright infringement, what about 2? how about 100?

        Actually, it is. The point is while every example IS technically a copyright violation, nobody gives a flying crap about the little stuff. 1 song? Do you think anyone will check? 100? maybe. 100 to a mailing list? Probably yes. You would have to use a little common sense and a little self control, and nobody will knock your door.

        "This is why idiots like you and the rest of the piracy apologists are not respected by anyone with any sense of morals."

        FTFY.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 1:46am

          Re: Re: Re: good story... but

          Here's a tip - copyright holders tend to go after people who can't fight back.

          Personal versus commercial? That doesn't matter.

          And you seem to be still stuck in the rut of thinking that everyone who disagrees with copyright maximalists like you is a piracy apologist.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 2:27am

          Re: Re: Re: good story... but

          A selfie that you just send to your friends won't get much attention, would it?

          You mean like a video of a dancing baby posted on Youtube for family and friends did not get much attention?
          /s

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 1:27am

        Re: Re: good story... but

        The problems are related to delineation of the law which is completely crap. Particular de minimus is ridiculous in not setting anything concrete.

        What he seems to present is the "no photos" you find in certain museums and using that as a defence. Also, he seems to make a very problematic distinction between private and public.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:56am

        Re: Re: good story... but

        Your logis is not making sense.

        Copyright is never about profit, please learn some history first.

        And secondly, How is taking a selfie with a art work, going to make a million dollar, and why should the money go to an artist that is most likely long dead.

        And even if it makes a million dollar, what is to say that it is the art work, and not the person that took the selfie that is drawing the interest

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 6:01am

        Re: Re: good story... but

        And one more thing, how is a photograph whether intentional or not intentional,

        And a photograph is not a artwork

        Trying to link them would lead to rather hilirious situation.

        In your situation, the rule is pretty clear that it only apply to painting, as sculpture and other 3D art is different from picture.

        And the "lost" profit really wouldn't occur, unless the picture taker try to pass off the photograph as the artwork, then that would be into scamming, and different area of law.

        All nothing to really do with copyright, in which the purpose is to promote science and culture, not MAKE ALOT OF MONEY.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 12:13am

      Re: good story... but

      Page 13 of this comic.

      Honestly, considering how sue-happy copyright holders can get and usually are, plus how they consider playing free-to-air radio to a private stable for horses as a public performance, there's no precedent that would stop them from attempting the above, or fighting for a law that would let them attempt the above.

      But hey, it's no surprise - you'd rather defend wealthy corporations that can afford to sue people and drain their resources.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Violynne (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 3:40am

      Re: good story... but

      "Posting it up on social media might be an issue, but private one to one email pretty much shows no intent to violate anything."
      And you still missed the point completely.

      I see a good use of the word "idiot", and it's not an insult when it's based on fact.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 4:47am

      Re: good story... but

      How do you like getting DMCAed, chucklenut?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:45am

      Re: good story... but

      "The "4.55 billion" story you point to is also pretty much a crock of shit. You don't see people getting sued for copyright infringement as a result of unintentional appearance of copyright items in personal pictures."
      Nay, good sir! 'Tis you who is the crock!
      That article doesn't say that everyone gets sued for 4.55 billion every year. It's a though experiment in where someone analyzes the daily events of some random guy and then calculates the damages assuming he was sued for every single instance of infringement.
      You are either a mediocre troll/shill/whatever you are, or a very good idiot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:34am

      Re: good story... but

      Ah, yes, your utopia. A land of laws that no one can avoid breaking, so your lovingly trusted authorities can selectively enforce them against anyone they choose.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:35am

      Re: good story... but

      Dude, there have been plenty of examples of the MAFIAA suing people for such instances you call "common sense". Do we remember some idiots getting worked up because people were whistling or singing songs in commercial places without paying royalties? Remember that?

      Posting it up on social media might be an issue, but private one to one email pretty much shows no intent to violate anything.

      Because people take selfies to keep to themselves. There's no record of social networks being flooded with such things, no. /sarcasm

      Trying to use stuff like this to condemn copyright is pretty much the biggest reach possible - and pretty sad.

      Let's talk about how the copyright morons stretch the law to try to profit from everything, block legitimate things everywhere and even use lobbying and other shady tactics to expand copyright in an never ending crusade, shall we? If this is sad to you then your side of this 'war' is pure, deep, suicidal depression.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Starving Artist, 23 Sep 2014 @ 4:57am

    Please do not photograph, discuss or otherwise publicize my works because I love hanging around the starving artist get togethers in parking motel lots. If not for this much desirable complete obscurity I might have to profit off my talents, this can not be allowed to happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DaveK (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 5:47am

    You might not want to post that selfie...

    ... of you with the Hollywood sign in the background on your website, or the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce will be after you for a trademark-licensing fee.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MacCruiskeen, 23 Sep 2014 @ 6:43am

    "pricing it at an insane price. "

    Yes, because it doesn't cost any money to publish a book, and the publisher has no need to recoup those costs, for a book that likely will have very limited readership at any price. So I guess they shouldn't try, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 7:43am

      Re:

      What's this got to do with museums?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      Any publisher that spends too much money publishing a book that will have limited readership at any price, will go out of business. That is exactly as it should be.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      RonKaminsky (profile), 24 Sep 2014 @ 2:33am

      Re:

      > because it doesn't cost any money to publish a book

      Well, nowadays, exactly how much does it cost? From my personal non-professional viewpoint, it would seem to require a one-time payment for editing and cover art... and that's about it.

      I don't believe that Tehranian himself cares about making money from his book; what's important for him (academic-karma-wise) is that it is published (and not by a vanity publisher).

      The really stupid thing about your post, however, is that instead of making fun of Mike finding the ebook price ironic because of the supposedly significant production cost of said ebook, you should have instead made fun of Mike for ignoring obvious economic principles which drive academic ebook prices, namely that most such ebooks are bought out of research grant funds which often "just need to be spent", anyway. (Or am I missing something from my non-professional-economist viewpoint?)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 8:24am

    Temporary Exhibits

    However, the original notice noted that "temporary" exhibits will still have restrictions on photography "for reasons of copyright." But, as IPKat notes above, it's not clear why that should only apply to the temporary exhibits, since many of the permanent exhibit works are still under copyright as well (though the museum itself might also hold the copyright on many of those works).

    I'm guessing that (at least in some cases) whoever's providing the temporary exhibits has "no photos" restrictions in their exhibit agreement with the National Gallery.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reality bites, 23 Sep 2014 @ 9:23am

    Much cheaper to remove the lawyers that want to sue.

    Simply put a bounty on the parasitic lawyers and let the cleansing begin.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Sep 2014 @ 10:11am

    Security/surveillance cameras could conceivably violate copyright laws as well. The IP rabbit hole runs deep.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    res (profile), 23 Sep 2014 @ 6:07pm

    selfie in museum

    the solution is to charge a copyright birthing fee. when someone is born the parents are charged a lifetime copyright payment of let's say 4 million dollars. that entitles their child to download, copy whatever painting, photograph, music, video, movie or some other as yet undiscovered thing (like quantum tele-transporting the entire earth to another universe) for free.

    easy solution!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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