Pictures of pictures

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variations on
an idea of Ingres


Photons: fickle and promiscuous!

I stood, shivering in the magic
of a wintry eve, in the park.
My camera, kissed by a muse,
drank the lawn's early dark.

I developed a photo;
I silk-screened it on lace;
I scanned it and put it on
the World Wide place,

Through clever forensics,
it was conclusively argued,
that one of my shadows
was cast by a statue.

The park, said the court,
bought its plaster, not its art:
a statue so potent,
even its shadow had heart.

My photo infringed
on a photon that's not there:
the light had refracted
from the statue's grey glare

So, the lawyers and agents
and the people with wigs
did try me and seize me,
all my cows and my pigs.

I no longer photograph photons
nor do I study their use.
I am now a cowless prisoner
-- all because of the muse.

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Bridgeman v Corel

Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel, 36 F. Supp. 2d 191 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) was a court case that yielded the determination that the originality in a photograph of a two dimensional artwork is insufficient to result in a new copyright. The issue has important implications for creators of art history texts, museums, libraries, students, educators, and web designers. Herewith some discussion:

Copyright and Digital Images -- II.  When Copyright Permission Is Not Required -- From the Office of the General Counsel, Catholic University of America.

Copyright in Photographs of works of Art -- from the Museums Copyright Group of London.

You and the Law -- by Attorney Joe Hecker, someone who "lectures and writes extensively on issues of concern to the photography industry."

summary of implications for the museum community provided by The Rights and Reproduction Information Network (RARIN) ("a taskforce of the Registrars Committee - a Standing Professional Committee of the American Association of Museums"). An interesting excerpt:

"In addition to economic concerns, an additional Bridgeman problem that Steve Weil (Emeritus Senior Scholar at the Smithsonian's Center for Museum Studies) raised is the potential for a museum to run afoul of the criminal provisions of Section 506 of the Copyright Act for the fraudulent use of a copyright notice. However, it was generally agreed that museums would be safe with notices placed on public domain works prior to Bridgeman, because to run afoul of the criminal provisions you need to have fraudulent intent."