Photography Laws

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Photography Laws

Postby markjudep » Sat Apr 12, 2008 1:03 pm

I was wondering if it's legal to photograph houses from public streets? I seem to remember someone somewhere on this message board addressed this issue.

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Postby spinsLPs » Sat Apr 12, 2008 3:37 pm


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Postby Dallasmodern » Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:08 pm

Interesting topic considering the recent legal claims against Google's street view.

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Postby rockland » Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:31 pm

good advice. keep a copy in your camera bag. It is odd at times to photo anything from the
street, even legal. The rules have changed a bit in Manhattan. You WILL get harassed at times.
Playing tourist and not being rude is 100% the way to go. I always have my camera and never
have an issue. An ounce of indignant behavior, you may end up in jail.
An annoying paparazzi is very protected by their press supporters and has the 'get out of jail free' card.

Photographing houses from the street is legal, but can be invasive to a private residence.
It is uncomfortable for a resident to have someone, even an educated appreciative student of architecture
to stop and photograph their home. legal, yes. invasive, yes.

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Postby Izzy » Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:26 pm

house appraisers and inspectors drive around and snap photos all the time of houses to do price and comparisons so it must be fine here in Washington state...
i have thought that same thing since i have been meaning to drive around and take some pics of bests and worsts in my neighborhood. as far as i know its fine, but i would be discreet... 8-)

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Postby Tony » Sat Apr 12, 2008 7:37 pm

There was an interesting case about this when an environmentalist, who photographs the California coast line from helicopter, was sued by Barbara Strisand for including her house. Not only was the case dismissed, but Strisand was forced to pay the environmentalist's attorney's fees:



If you are on public property - streets, sidewalks, beaches (in California that means the wet part of the beach) - you can photograph anything you want. Any objection is just unlawful intimidation. But, it's better generally to avoid confrontation, so it's best to be discreat. So a small camera is better than an 8" x 10" view camera!

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Postby redneckmodern » Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:40 pm

as mentioned in the above posts: in general, if you can see it, you can shoot it. moreover, no one has the right to take your camera or force you to turn over your film or delete the images. they can ask you to leave private property and never return, but not one bit more. i tell my students in a branding class i teach that if someone stops them while they're taking research images and attempts to take their camera to call 911 immediately and report a theft in progress. granted once you have the image, you may have far fewer rights as to what you're able to do with it. for instance, many buildings -- such as SF's transamerica building-- have a building copyright, meaning that it can't be used in a commercial venture. that said, i try to live by the golden rule... once a man asked me not to take a picture of his crap at a a local (large) flea market, i put away the camera knowing a fight (even though i'd win) was not in the cards that day.

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Postby Tony » Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:39 am

Hi redneckmodern,

Could you elaborate on the term "building copyright"?

I don't know about the Transamerica Building situation, but a similar one was with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. There the Museum "trademarked" the building and claimed no one could sell photographs or posters of the building as this would infringe on their trademark. They sued a photographer who was selling posters of the museum. The museum won, but then lost on appeal:



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Yeah

Postby modfan » Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:02 am

I think it's similar to using unpermissioned photos of the lonely cypress at Pebble Beach for commercial use. I think the link recapped it but I think you can take pics of such things as Tranamerica Tower, Hollywood Sign, Lone Cypress and such as long as it's for personal, research or academic use-there's a problem when you are making money off of it-that's when someone else wants a piece of the till or it's copywrighted. BTW I'm not well versed in the legal field.

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Postby Stephen » Sun Apr 13, 2008 10:52 am

It's funny, I just had a conversation about "building copyrights" with someone else. What our (limited) research concluded was this:

- You cannot "generally" trademark or copyright a building.
- You can, however, protect specific uses of that building where you are attempting to use the building for its fame, relation to the company, etc.
- It was explained to me that it's a bit like a logo. In general, if you take a photo of a street scene and it happens to include several companies' trademarked logos....that's fine. However, if you are using the image of the logo to specifically represent the copyright / trademark holder, it's a no-go.

In the case of the Transamerica Tower, the shape of the building is distinct and part of their trademarked logo. Making a photo of specifically the tower crosses the line of having an implied association, and that's where the problem is. But a picture of the SF skyline (that happens to include the Transmerica Tower) would be fair game.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a grey area and it's certainly up to the court to determine whether or not anyone would confuse anything specifically featuring the building as being approved, related, or associated with the Hall of Fame. I guess one court decided yes and the other decided no. Some interesting excerpts from the appeal opinion:

"...after reviewing the record before us with this possibility in mind, we are not persuaded that the Museum uses its building design as a trademark."

and

"...we find absolutely no evidence in the record which documents or demonstrates public recognition of the Museum's building design as a trademark. Such evidence might be pivotal in this case, but it is lacking."

So it seems the court, in that case, does not rule out buildings being protectable trademarks, just not in this case.
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Postby redneckmodern » Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:25 pm



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