Photos of Businesses

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  • Hello,

    Is permission necessary to take a picture of a company's exterior if you are not standing on their property? The photo is to be used in a presentation for a course. What do you think?

    Thank you!
  • It depends. Why are you taking a picture of the company's exterior? Is it because of the architecture, or to illustrate an overview of the company? Will it be used once, or regularly? Are pictures available to be inexpensively licensed (perhaps in a package of photos of interesting buildings)?

    I tend to think that using a picture of a building for a course presentation would come out as fair use in most analyses, but can imagine that there might be some circumstances where it would not.

    If the photo were of a person or event occurring in front of the building and the building itself were incidental, the answer would be easier, but it sounds like this is not the case.
  • See section 120 of the Copyright Act, concerning the "Scope of Exclusive Rights in Architectural Works," which explicitly allows such photos; there is no need for a fair use argument. Subsection (a) of that section reads "Pictorial Representations Permitted -- The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing or public displays of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place."

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