Saturday, February 06, 2010

Public Art Infringement Suit

Jen Graves on a copyright infringement lawsuit by the creator of a public artwork in Seattle against a photographer who took a picture of the work and then listed it with a stock photo agency.

Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento offers some thoughts:

"One, it seems the piece was created 'more than 30 years ago,' so [the photographer] may want to look into the exact date of creation and publication and find out if these were before 1977, or between 1978 and March 1, 1989. There are certain copyright notice requirements that must be met in these two situations to ensure that the 'work' does not fall into the public domain. (see Peter Hirtle’s public domain chart.) Secondly, it seems that if some public funds were used to cover some of the sculpture’s costs, and as a policy matter, this raises an interesting issue as to whether or not public sculptural works which are partially or entirely funded with tax-payer money should also be considered a government work. ... Thirdly, it would be interesting to investigate whether or not there was a written agreement between [the artist] and the commissioning party and notice whether or not there was a transference or sharing of the copyright to the sculpture."

On the third point, I'd be surprised if that were true. Artists typically hold onto their copyrights in situations like this, at least in my experience. But I guess you never know.