Baloney from Photographers

Baloney from Photographers

Australian photographers are upset because they can’t reproduce Australian landmarks without paying a fee and associated paperwork.  They will nevertheless probably take the high moral ground if someone reproduces their photos without paying a fee and doing the associated paperwork.


7 Responses to “Baloney from Photographers”

  1. 1 Michael Davies 30 August 2010 at 9:32 am

    I don’t see this as baloney Brenden.

    Australian landmarks, on public land, funded by the Australian tax payer should be photographable for both profit and non-profit. We paid for them, we should be allowed to benefit from them.

    The anti-photographer law that covers the Sydney foreshore, IIRC, was brought in for anti-terror reasons for the Sydney Olympics. The law smacks of big brother and should be dismissed.

    As for photographer’s rights to protect their creative output, this is quite a different story and is no different to protecting any creative work in any field of endeavour. Unless you’re advocating that copyright should not exist for all creative works, there’s a huge inconsistency is what you are saying.

  2. 2 brendanscott 30 August 2010 at 11:50 am

    Hi Michael

    Thanks for your comment. I certainly don’t think the laws should stay in place, they’re stupid. However, _if_ it’s wrong to copy without payment and paperwork, then it is wrong regardless of how the work was originally funded. So I do think its hypocritical for photographers to expect people to pay to copy their work, while arguing that they should not have to pay to copy other people’s work (in this case the State’s). Wedding and portrait photographers, for example, typically charge for prints of photos despite the fact that the client may have paid for the photo shoot.

    Photographers* are making an exception of themselves. That’s unethical.

    * ie that subset who charge others for reproducing their work

  3. 3 Leon Brooks 30 August 2010 at 12:14 pm

    In general, I agree with both of you. It seems to come down to a conflict of definitions.

    A landmark is inherently public domain, so reproductions should not require any paperwork.

    If a sculptor produced a unique work which was not publicly displayed, then said sculptor (or whoever purchased the work from them) would have the right to restrict or to tax reproductions of that art in precisely the same way that photographs featuring recognisable sections of someone’s person require that someone’s permission before being made visible to anyone other than the photographer.

    If the work was publicly displayed, someone can take a mental copy of it with their eyeballs, so it would be difficult to justify enforcement of copyright restrictions, which is (I think) one reason commercial art galleries exist.

    Rules for a painter reproducing a sculpted work are a bit conceptually fuzzier. As the painting represents a work of art all of its own, there is an unresolved conflict between the painter’s rights over their work versus the sculptor’s rights over their work.

    If the painting was made in a commercial setting, the appropriate measure would seem to be that the painter & sculptor share the royalties or whatever on the painting. I would not want to have the perpetual migraine involved in arranging such a thing – such as deciding what happens if the painting is publicly displayed but the sculpture, as painted, wasn’t.

    If the painting was made in a public setting, then IMESHO the painter gets the entire say over what happens with his work.

    This is further clouded by the many abuses (no softer term is appropriate) of copyright law & the like. If one simply caves in upon sighting a (c) then it has become a weapon, not a tool.

    Disagreement welcome. When you’ve come to a conclusion, you’ve stopped learning. (-:

  4. 4 PaulWay 30 August 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Funny how people think that these buildings are on ‘public’ land. The Opera House certainly isn’t, and every bit of land (even the parks, and even bits of the sea) is owned by some entity. Public art galleries have conditions of entry which disallow your right to photograph the exhibits, which you automatically agree to by walking in. Even if the land was public, that does not the building public – just as you have the rights to not allow use of a photo with you in it even if you were photographed in a park.

    What offends us here is two things: firstly the point that Brendan is making (which I wholeheartedly support) – that you cannot differentiate between one field of art (architecture) and another (photography) and say that one can be copyrighted but the other is ‘public’; secondly, that the things we consider ‘public’ are often not and this mismatch offends us. To say you can view something, walk all around it, move around inside it and take the whole view in mentally and never infringe copyright, but that the moment you introduce a recording device you therefore have to do paperwork and pay someone money is a travesty of justice. Never mind the fact that one could easily paint the image from memory; this too gets hit by ‘copyright’. Never mind, even, that taking a photograph of the Sydney Opera House is OK as long as it is for private use only. We have an expectation of common use of the Sydney Opera House, the streets leading up to it, the peninsula it sits on and the water surrounding it, but the legal uses (and the uses the owner and rights holder would like us to be restricted to) are completely different.

    No-one is arguing against all copyright. What we are arguing for is that fair use be a much broader, inclusive term – preventing people from capitalising on uses of something we view for free. Ultimately we need to take a step back and be humble about our contribution because we all build our work based on that of those gone before us.

    Have fun,


  5. 5 pfctdayelise 30 August 2010 at 3:51 pm

    If they clicked their camera and ended up with their very own harbour, then I’d agree you might have a point.

    The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Regulations only came in 1999 (according to this – ). Over 10 years already… but a good idea to protest it before any other bright sparks around the country get the same idea.

    It seems to me it’s just creeping towards introducing anti-“freedom of panorama” style laws in Australia. ( ) I don’t see how such laws benefit the cultural commons of a country at all.

  6. 6 Russell Coker 30 August 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Copyright on a building preventing people from making duplicate buildings makes sense. Copyright to prevent someone being photographed near it makes no sense.

    I agree with the US constitution where it says “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries”. We should ask whether the progress of science and useful arts is progressed by any particular copyright law.

    Preventing people from photographing a building in a public place will not give an incentive for anyone do design better buildings. Among other things the possible revenue from photographs hardly compares to the construction cost.

    Preventing people from copying a picture where someone just pointed a digital camera at a public building (which means gthe vast majority of photographs of public buildings) is also unlikely to promote the progress of useful arts. It’s only the fact that recognising the difference between a happy snap and a creative artistic or technical work of high quality photography is beyond the capacity of law courts that should allow all photographs to be copyright.

    Also the Sydney Opera House is 37 years old. I think that the maximum term for copyright should be something reasonable like 50 years. In which case the Opera House would be out of copyright in 13 years time, and large swathes of city areas would be out of copyright already.

    It should be noted that the document which pfctdayelise cited states that it’s legal to photograph public buildings. So the real issue is strange laws implemented just to protect parts of Sydney.

  7. 7 Chris 31 August 2010 at 11:25 pm

    The Copyright Act 1968 (Part III — Division 7 “Acts not constituting infringements of copyright in artistic works”, Section 66) says:

    The copyright in a building or a model of a building is not infringed by the making of a painting, drawing, engraving or photograph of the building or model or by the inclusion of the building or model in a cinematograph film or in a television broadcast.

    More interestingly, section 65 regarding artworks and sculptures in public places says:

    The copyright in a work to which this section applies that is situated, otherwise than temporarily, in a public place, or in premises open to the public, is not infringed by the making of a painting, drawing, engraving or photograph of the work or by the inclusion of the work in a cinematograph film or in a television broadcast.

    So interestingly (by my reading, and IANAL) if it’s a temporary exhibition then it’s covered by copyright, if it’s on permanent fixed display then it’s not.

    Found via this blog, who seems to miss the point that the law he quotes about his photo of a temporary sculpture exhibit does not support his argument. :-)

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