Public Picture

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  • If i took a picture on property would i have to obtain permission and if the picture became profitable, even though the object was not copyrighted, would i be subject to paying royalties?

    ex. if i took a picture in a junkyard of a bunch of crushed cars for a band album cover, is there any legal action the junkyard owner could take for me taking pictures.
  • When a photographer takes a photo of an object that is not itself protected by copyright, the only copyright in that photo is held by the photographer.

    I suppose it is possible, in the situation you describe, for the junkyard owner to claim, in this era of automatic copyright protection, that the pile of cars should be protected as a sculptural work, but that probably wouldn't pass the smell test. It would only be worth the expense of gambling on such an unlikely claim if we were talking about A LOT of royalties. The first obstacle would be registering the work, which is a prerequisite to filing an action for infringement; even the highly-permissive Copyright Office could well reject that registration.

    If the object were protected by copyright, the photo might well be found to be a derivative work and subject either to licensing fees (and perhaps ongoing royalties) or an action for infringement. The photographer would probably defend by claiming that the photograph was transformative, rather than derivative, and therefore a fair use. I would rather be the lawyer for the defense in that one.

    It seems far more likely that, if the junkyard owner wanted to find a legal cause of action against the photographer, he or she would try trespass.

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