As photographers we’re very vocal about defending our copyrights. But what about sculptures, don’t they have the same rights as we enjoy? And what photographer hasn’t used bits and pieces of someone else’s artwork as part of their image? Think murals, statues, installations etc….
In February 2008, I got a scary letter from the lawyers for a sculptor named Jack Mackie. In 1979, Mr. Mackie created, with public funds, a public art piece known as “Dance Steps on Broadway.” These are the dance steps embedded in some of the sidewalks on Broadway in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. I took a photograph over ten years ago of a woman dancing along those sidewalks, and some of the “dance steps” were visible in the photo.
Mr. Mackie is now claiming that the photo somehow infringes on his copyright. He insisted that my stock photography agency remove the image, which they immediately did. I assumed that would be the end of it. (read more)
But of course it wasn’t. Mackie is suing Hipple for copyright infringement which according to Hipple could total over “$60,000 or more”. WOW!
So the question is, what constitutes fair use? A photo taken in a public space that contains a work of art paid for by the “public” and it does not use the work in its entirety? Apparently a court may have to decide but in the meantime we’d like to know what you think?
As a photographer is Hipple defending what could be a precedent setting case that could affect each and every one of us? Hipple suggests we think of it this way…
if Mr. Mackie is correct and this isn’t fair use, then he can file a $60,000 law suit against anyone who, when strolling along Capitol Hill, thinks the dance steps are nice and takes a photo or video. He may not find you if you just leave the image on your camera or computer, but as soon as you post it to Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc., he can (and apparently will) sue you. (read more)
I gotta say it again… WOW!
Here is a link to copyright.gov and the fair use law as it reads now.