Monday, 6 December 2010

What can you shoot these days? Part 2

In my previous blog I talked about photographs and video submitted to stock libraries being rejected due to copyright restrictions. I have discovered an association called PACA, the Picture Archive Council of America, who "represent the vital interests of stock archives" and have been doing so since 1951!

The association has compiled a list of  "properties and objects that may cause problems if shown photographically". These are mainly in America but some are not. It makes interesting reading and I notice that the Sydney Opera House is missing from the list.

ASMP, the American Society of Media Photographers offer a copyright tutorial which states that buildings may be subject to copyright restrictions "if they were built after December 1, 1990. Before that, buildings did not have copyright protection and were thus, by definition, in the public domain. Shoot away." Ah, so Sydney Opera House should be fair game then.

Of course I am not the first photographer to suffer from SOH syndrome. Simon Phipps managed to get an answer from Sydney Opera House back in 2007 which states, "The Sydney Opera House Trust manages the use of Sydney Opera House’s image and brand on behalf of the New South Wales Government. The Trust vigorously protects the commercial exploitation of its intellectual property and does not approve use of the SOH brand in commercial contexts where there is no association between the relevant business and SOH."

What I would like to know is how a building, especially one built with public funds, can be copyrighted. I wouldn't mind so much about the Opera House but it does fit perfectly in the 16:9 TV format. The (soon to be) tallest building in Europe, The "Shard" being constructed in London will be useless.

What can you shoot these days? Part 1

This is not a blog decrying the lack of targets for blood-lust hungry hunters but is about how you cannot film or photograph anything these days without written permission. Watch any news footage or television programme shot in the previous millennium and there were practically no restrictions on what you were allowed to cover - kids, iconic buildings, film stars, even the Queen was fair game.

Much of the work I produce is sold through stock libraries and each one has its own different rules and all of them have release forms available when you can identify someone within the picture or video. iStock is one of the most restrictive of all the stock libraries, possibly because it is owned by the omnipotent Getty Images. Material I have supplied but has been rejected for copyright issues include The Eiffel Tower at night (the light show is the problem), Sydney Opera House, a night time shot of London when a logo appeared over a total of 12 pixels (out of 5,800,000 or so) and macro shots of the Queen's image on a coin.

A photo of the "Boris" bikes in central London, which look great in their rack, was rejected because the bikes feature Barclays Bank logo. I Photoshopped the logo out, re-submitted and got it rejected again because the London Underground logo appeared in the background.

Timelapse footage of a glorious sunset behind the Millennium Wheel was rejected by iStock (although accepted by three other libraries) because it featured, yup, the Millennium Wheel.

I can see both sides of the coin (but I can't photograph it) and in ten years iStock have over 100 million images downloaded from their site, so they must be doing something right and their quality control is amazingly good. My concern (apart from not being able to get my images and video out to the iStock customers) is that the rich heritage that still and moving images have developed over the last 200 years may be eroded.

Fotolia and Shutterstock have a more relaxed attitude to copyright issues and search engines such as Google Images will find you almost anything, but would you feel happy using a photo sourced here in a TV programme that is being transmitted world-wide?

Without a court case to clarify each case, photographers and film makers will never be certain what they can shoot but one thing is clear, copyright free imagery is becoming an endangered species.