copyright laws

i am planning to write travel essays and send them to magazines for possible publication. i may put photos of art from museums or beautiful architecture, etc. does anyone know if there are copyright laws concerning their use? thank you.
olivia

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

Wow, the Rick Steves bashing knows no bounds around here. I'm willing to bet his staff know a lot about the subject. His TV shows spend a lot of time inside art museums with close-ups of a lot of the art works. So they have over 20 years of first-hand knowledge on how to get permission to show those artists on mass-media.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

I'm by no means in expert at this, but as far as I know you will need the permission of the museum/owners of the art work to reprint images for commercial purposes. There is a good chance they will want a fee for that permission as well.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

Architectural pics taken from public places (a street, a park etc) are usually exempt from any copyright. Most architectural pics taken inside a building open to the public where photo is allowed can be freely used as well. A different case is photography of specific artworks such as paintings or sculptures exhibited.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2391 posts

"architectural pics taken inside a building open to the public where photo is allowed can be freely used as well." Laws and rules can vary, but generally museums and other institutions that allow photography do so with the stipulation that it is for personal use only. Publication of interior shots would likely be problematic. Any publication will know what is generally allowed or not. They should have a photo policy and standards for free-lance writers.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
633 posts

This would be a good question for a magazine editor you are submitting an article to. Legal advice on the Internet is worth what you pay for it.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

This would be a question for a lawyer specializing in copyright law. You need to get your answer straight from the horse's mouth.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

You could also try contacting the museum, cathedral, etc. where you're taking pictures and telling them what you'd like to do with your pictures. With regard to museums, I'd suggest contacting someone in the marketing department. Museums and some churches may also have their own "stock photos" you could use for your articles, thereby avoiding any sticky copyright issues.

Posted by Olivia
Margate, FL, USA
100 posts

thanks for your response. i was right to worry about copyrights. someone had suggested to me to publish my travel essays on the internet which i thought i would do. but there is no magazine entity to say if it violates any law. perhaps i could write the museum. wonder if rick steves knows the answer. he writes travel books after all. his travel books advertise the museums and travel sites, which my travel essay will do also. i doubt if he asks permission from the museums if he could include works of art in his book. there's just too many. calling on rick steves. does anyone know his email address? thanks again.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Have you done any research at all? I did a Google search for "copyright law for writers using photos of buildings" and the first page of results included a couple of very helpful online articles. Took less than 30 seconds to find them.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Exactly, Monte! Much like soliciting his fashion advice, Rick is probably the last person you should solicit for legal help (although I'm betting his company is well represented with respect to legal issues pertaining to his business). As others have said, you need to do some basic research, which should be quite easy and free from the comfort of where you are presently sitting. Rest assured, the magazine publishers (like Meredith Corp.) will most certainly follow the applicable laws. Be careful on your own! BTW, are you a legitimate writer, or is this just an idea you have? Just curious.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Olivia, As I'm a photographer, I've run into this issue with some Museums in Europe. Some that I've visited had signs at the entrance clearly stating that photographs are allowed only for non-commercial use, and in a few cases I was asked to sign a document to that effect. Of course, most have the usual restrictions on flash photography or use of Tripods, and some don't allow ANY photos. If you get some answers, post another reply here as the information may be useful for others. Cheers!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10884 posts

O' contrary. Had a little experience with a small publication a decade or so ago, any responsible publisher will demand a release letter for any photo used. The same goes for the internet. Just because a photo appears to be in the public domain, it is not safe to assume that it is. In the US, it can be very expensive. But do not know how copyright laws apply in Europe. I guarantee that the Steves folks have releases for every site that they use in their videos. And, in the same sense, any original photo that you post or column that you write, is equally cover by copyright. It is a two way street.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

I think the key thing for you to know is that although there are some EU wide copyright requirements, the detailed law is at national level and so changes from country to country. As has already been suggested, you should check the individual institutions' rules for using pictures taken inside their premises - for example with some you will find they agree you can publish a photograph provided you agree in advance (and pay a fee), with others they will prohibit commercial use of photographs.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2522 posts

Olivia, contact the chief librarian at University of Miami, he/she or someone on staff will have probably attended a seminar recently. I teach at a small college in Ohio and faculty get updates on copyright law all the time. You are right to be concerned, material distributed over the internet is subject to copyright laws. Rick Steves' use of material, at least on Public Television, is educational and not for profit - do you notice he is referred to as a travel educator?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

I think you said you were intending to self-publish on the interweb and then approach magazines for possible publication. If you do it that way is it possible that the magazines will refuse because they didn't publish it first?

Posted by Olivia
Margate, FL, USA
100 posts

thanks for your various and variegated responses. i am just a simple traveller who suddenly had this idea of writing travel essays to share my experiences and perhaps make a little money in the process. i realize it isn't as easy as i thought. i have an essay that shows a photo of the 500-yr isenheim altarpiece from musée unterlinden in colmar, france, and the BMW welt building in munich. rather than check on generic country copyrights, i think i will write directly to the museum in colmar and to the BMW company in munich. in this way, i will know exactly what they require. thank you all so much. you have awakened me from my dream :).

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10884 posts

Zoe, it doesn't make any difference if profit or non-profit. All have to go through the same hoops. We were a non-profit, technical publication with a very limited audience but extremely careful about copyright because we often used material from large corporations. If you are publishing something for public consumption you cannot be too careful. Unfortunately it is just the way business is done. Didn't mean to pop your balloon, but once you try to make money off of someone else work, the ball game changes quickly. Posting on your facebook page, a blog, etc., you probably are safe or at least have the argument of "one time fair usage." But only one time.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

"I'm willing to bet his staff know a lot about the subject." Probably true, but that doesn't mean they should be willing to hand out free legal advice. Wouldn't that be like practicing law without a license? Most states frown on that.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

As someone who has been involved with publishing art textbooks, I can tell you that permissions are needed and can be expensive. There is a difference also in terms of electronic vs print rights. The former, unless lo res can be astronomical. And many contemporary artists are unbelievably restrictive. You should check out the College Art Association website for information. Their members are very interested in this topic. Here's a link that may help. Also, to get a good picture of the art--publication standard--in a museum, you really need a tripod and most museum require that your register and maybe pay a fee for taking the picture. You may find that it's just easier to use their image. Pam

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2522 posts

Frank, you are right about profit/non-profit, I meant to emphasize the education aspect, which still requires permission in many cases.

Posted by Debra
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1001 posts

In short, yes. You may be able to argue some kind of fair use, but it doesn't sound like the elements would apply here. If it's that important to find photos and you can't find friendly fellow travelers who don't care and are willing to share without fees, you may be able to find public domain photos (And I don't mean just photos off google, those are usually still with rights reserved), or photos say on flickr that are marked OK to use (Creative commons may be ok, but that still doesn't allow for use in profit).

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
645 posts

To make things slightly more complicated, some of the artwork on display in museums is not owned by the museum. It is on loan from a private collection, such as the Guggenheim family, the Rockefeller family, or a corporation such as Bank of America. Sometimes difficult to get a signed release in order to use the photos of the artwork.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2391 posts

People are really starting to guess and make stabs in the dark about a somewhat complex legal issue. The OP's question has been pretty well answered in the first few posts and she now knows the complexity of her dream endeavor. Continuing to post guesses and wrong information is not helpful at all - just my final two cents on this...

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
1699 posts

"Fair use" is a US concept that I believe derives eventually from the First Amendment. Other countries have specific copyright exceptions, which are usually much narrower, rather than a general principle.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

The minute that you are making money from a publication the notion of fair use or education use goes out the window.

Posted by Olivia
Margate, FL, USA
100 posts

hi all, just to let you know, i just sent an email to musée unterlinden and bmw welt asking if there will be copyright problems about including pictures i took during our visit. will let you know the response, if they ever respond. thanks. olivia

Posted by ed
albany
355 posts

I would not trust the staff at various museums either. They have a vested interest in selling their own art books. In general copyrights expire 70 years after the death of the artist. So even if the Louvre, thinks they have a copyright to the Mona Lisa, they don't. That being said, museums have the right to have no camera policies and violating that will get you in trouble too.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

Well, yes, the museums may let you use a fuzzy out of focus shot, because they will have rules about using tripods and about use of flash. And the permits to use a tripod will no doubt have stipulations about the use of the photos. Again, I recommend going to the College Art Association website and reading about copyright and art. These people deal with these issues on a daily basis whether it's use in the classroom or in publications. Read what they have to say. Pam

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1139 posts

Olivia, you need professional advice on this: A wrong decision can be very costly. A friend was tied up for several years in costly litigation over a photo he took and used in an article he wrote for a popular science magazine. He ultimately was judged not to be guilty, but the costs and disruption of his life were substantial. I earn my living as a writer, and I carry malpractice/errors and omissions insurance. It's not very expensive (about 1000/y), but it's probably not worth it for you, if you are only writing a few articles. Minimally, you should contact editorial staff of the periodicals where you'd want to place pieces; they could advise you, if you can get their attention. Another option would be writing agents, although that might be difficult if you don't have a publication history. Museums typically don't allow photography for commercial purposes. They charge for that right. You could go to an image vendor (like Scala) to purchase rights; the cost varies depending on the image, format, and intended use. I'd guess street scenes without recognizable property would be OK. I'd get specific agreements, in writing, for using images of anything that an entity "owns." And any reputable publication will require demonstration of rights to images when something is accepted for publication.