[cc-licenses] Permission to publish a photo of a person, a work of art, a building
stefanie_calkins at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 26 09:35:09 EDT 2007
Javier - this is all great info. I appreciate you taking the time out to share your knowledge! I'll keep posting what I find out.
Many many thanks.
Javier Candeira <javier at candeira.com> wrote: jonathon wrote:
> As a general rule of thumb, it is advisable to obtain a model release
> * Every identifiable individual in a photograph;
> * Every identifiable work of art in a photograph;
> * Every identifiable building in a photograph;
As an activist (IANAL) I find this "get releases for everything" policy
dangerous in the long term, and my rule of thumb is not to ask for such
releases, except when explicitly required. What follow is my rationale.
First, the law: I don't know about your jurisdiction, but in Spain any work
of art or building in "public thoroughfares" ("vías públicas") is subject to
very little protection:
> 2. Las obras situadas permanentemente en parques, calles, plazas u otras
> vías públicas pueden ser reproducidas, distribuidas y comunicadas
> libremente por medio de pinturas, dibujos, fotografías y procedimientos
> audiovisuales. 
Quick translation, apologies if some terms of art are wrong:
"2. Works permanently placed in parks, streets, squares or other public
thoroughfares can be freely reproduced, distributed and broadcast via
paintings, drawings, photographs and audio-visual means."
I am curious to know what other jurisdictions' laws or precedents have to
say about this issue, and whether there is any part of the world where
either law or norm says street photographers can't publish their work
without the permission of the authors/rightsholders of buildings and public
Unless your jurisdiction specifically requieres such a release, I think
that it is healthy NOT to seek permission for publishing photos of public
art, public buildings, etcetera. The rule of thumb should be only seek the
release when the law explicitly demands it.
As Pamela Samuelson states in her manifesto (I don't think she would call it
that, but it sounds like one to me) for overhauling copyright in the USA,
copyright law grows by codifying the norms and trade practices of copyright
incumbents. If these incumbents get used to have people ask for copyright
releases that are not required by law, they will eventually ask the
lawmakers for the law to include those rights, in order to "protect their
Our job of stopping copyright creep starts at home.
As to the photo of a public personality such as Tiger Woods for publication
in an encyclopedia (which can be said to be about current events), I would
be very surprised if releases were necessary. Stefanie doesn't specify it,
but I am assuming that the photo will be illustrating the "golf" or "tiger
woods" or even "child prodigy" articles, and not be used in a slanderous
way, or implying Tiger's endorsement of the encyclopedia or its publisher.
In those circumstances, at least in Spain, I would consider a release
unnecessary. I have published some photographs in newspapers (I worked as a
journalist), and a couple of them have been used in Wikipedia [3, 4],
without any release being signed by any subject: I didn't ask them for it, I
don't think the wikipedia librarians did either.
I certainly don't feel I am at risk of being sued, and I plan to keep not
asking for releases for this kind of publication of photos of public
figures, and to never ask for releases for photos of buildings or of public
Stefanie: I suggest you get the advice of a copyfight-friendly lawyer in
your circunscription, or better yet, that the publishers do, as they will be
needing to do it in bulk (or not at all). Should you prefer to ask the list,
you could at least tell us where you are and where the publisher is!
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