Thursday, April 24, 2008

The copyright lawyers are taking over the asylum!

I'm happy to admit that I do not understand copyright law... of course, that doesn't stop me talking about it! (See for example Stealing, borrowing or using?) However, a couple of recent bits of lunacy have been drawn to my attention by a colleague that I thought were worth sharing.

No Photography
Originally uploaded by smenzel
Here is part of a report from the MacUser news pages:
Organisers of an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the 1958 Brussels World Fair have sent out an appeal for 100 "photoshoppers" to remove a copyrighted building from photographs they hope to display.

The Atomium is the only structure from the 1958 expo that still stands. The Mechelen exhibition is collecting photographs taken at the expo, and
appealing (in Dutch) for 100 people skilled in image editing to remove the iconic structure.

rding to the Atomium website, the building's image is protected and cannot be used, reproduced or distributed without permission. And Sabam has been known to take action by sending takedown notices to websites.

Though not to Flickr, it would seem, since the
Atomium blog is happy to link to the photo sharing site's many images of what is probably Brussels' most famous landmark - after a small urinating boy.

-- MacUser: 100 "photoshoppers" wanted to erase copyright building
It is worth reading the whole article but the above quote gives the flavour. The Atonium people say that a building, in full view in a public place, is protected by copyright and you cannot put your own photographs of the building on a website. Is it just me, or is that a bizarre concept - that you can copyright a public building and prevent people posting pictures of it online? What is even more bizarre however is that the copyright lawyer right hand doesn't seem to know what the Atonium blog using left hand is doing!

However, the same colleague also showed me an example that is closer to home:

In case you can't make it out from the screenshot, the Copyright notice says, "linking to... this site or any part of it is not permitted without express permission" but then, underneath this, they helpfully give you a set of buttons that allow you to link to the site! Again, left hand, can introduce you to your right hand? A couple of further observations. Firstly, I have linked to the site and I have reproduced a part of it in the screenshot, so clearly I am in trouble. Secondly, does the person who wrote that part of the guidance know what the World Wide Web is? It's the links to and from sites that make it a Web!

How are you supposed to teach children to respect copyright when it is as weird and confusing as this? The sooner Creative Commons becomes the norm rather than the exception the better.

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John Connell said...

Would any court be stupid enough to support this, David?

But then, lawyers are involved, so anything can happen!

Stuart Meldrum said...

By having those bookmark links at the bottom are they not giving your express written permission? Does that mean that you can also then go away and reproduce it however you like?

I'm like you, I don't understand copyright law, I usually worry about it for a while then just use the image that best suits me anyway - but with some sort of attribution.

@John Connell you wrote about this sort of thing at the weekend as well didn't you?

Ruby said...

I believe that the Eiffel Tower is also copyright so you can't take and publish photos of it ...

Joe said...

I am more pleased that social bookmarking has arrived on SQA's web pages.

David said...

Hello John

Whether the courts support it or not... the copyright lawyers will make a bucket load of money!

Hello Stuart

Not sure about the permission bit. The problem is that it is implicit rather than explicit. Whenever we get into IPR and copyright issues here at the University, the copyright chap (aka The Preventer of Services) insists that if it doesn't say explicitly you can do it, you're not allowed. Bah!

Hello Ruby

The Eiffel Tower too? Grief! I was hoping it was just Belgian copyright laws.

Hello Joe

Always look on the bright side. :-)

...But, yes, you are right. Like poodles walking on their hind legs, we shouldn't complain that it's inelegant but should just be be impressed that they can do it at all!