Rights to a photograph

I have a question about photographing a building and then selling the photograph. Here’s what happened. A friend of mine owns a plane, and last fall we circled a collegiate football stadium and I took a lot of pictures … one of which came out GREAT. I’ve since blown it up and put it on my wall at home.

A number of fellow alums have commented on it, and now one of them wants to sell copies of it on their unofficial college-sports-related Web site.

Is this kosher, or do I need to send the college a cut of each photo I sell? I mean, in stores you see official “Collegiate Licensing” for college hats, shirts, shorts, etc. … do I need to do this same thing for a photograph I took of a college building? Or am I free to sell this picture on my own without approval? Thanks!

Actually, if you put it on the internet, I think it becomes the property of Bill Gates. He has the folks at Corbis embed subliminal messages in it, so his world domination will be assured.

Unfortunately, he failed to realize that most legislators and judges are too dumb to use the internet, so he’s losing in court.

As to the actual answer to the question, I believe it depends on whether they have the stadium trademarked (or copyrighted, or whatever) which I’ll wager they do.

You can always send an e-mail off to the college, and see what they say. Or you can just go ahead and do it anyway, consequences be damned. That’s what I would do.

Of course, I’ve never been known for my wisdom.

Trip (don’t) Fall

Where, and how old, is the building? Depending on the jurisdiction, the age of the building, and the architect, the building as an architectural work may or may not be in the public domain.

I would very much doubt that the building itself can be a trademark, even if some stylized symbol of it might be.

The building is on the college campus, and it’s a little more than 30 years old. So I don’t think it’d quite be in the public domain. On the other hand, I do believe it was paid for by donations from alum, so I can’t see how it’d belong solely to the athletic department.

From: http://www.photosecrets.com/p14.html

And from the US Code, Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 120:

Of course IANAL, so you might want to confirm this with one.

How come, when someone posts a topic that is a simple matter of fact, everyone who knows how to type pipes in with his or her opinion?

“As to the actual answer to the question, I believe it depends on whether they have the stadium trademarked (or copyrighted, or whatever) which I’ll wager they do.”

How is this in any way helpful? The person who asked the original question is no closer to having an answer; he just has more BS to wade through while he’s waiting to see if someone with actual knowledge on the topic decides to respond. Plus–bonus!–now he knows what this guy THINKS is LIKELY to be the answer. WHO CARES?

If you don’t know the answer to the question, please leave it for someone who does.


–lissener (cranky and tired of having his own posts diverted into entirely irrelevant tangents)

Thanks for the cites, Minkman, but one quick question of clarification … your cite mentions the “making, distributing, or public display of pictures” – does distribution include sales? IOW, does that mean you can take and then either give away or showcase these pictures, or does distribution imply “for money”? I might be reading it too closely, but both cites seem to only allow the TAKING of photographs, not the sale of such. Or in talking of photographs is the sale of them assumed when you mention the copyright?

As a professional photographer, I would ask the college in question for permission to sell the image.

The stadium is their property, and the image you’re selling is desirable because of their efforts in creating a marketable entity.

That’s my own ethic, but two points of MinkMan’s link would need to be explored before you discard asking for permission:

Is aerial photography considered “from a public place”?

And, is a stadium considered a monument? There may well be clauses in the original architect’s contract that demand payment for any images of the finished building. Probably not in the case of a 30 year old structure, but it would be well advised to check.

The question of distribution is nebulous in this case. Public display covers exhibiting your prints as “art”, but doesn’t necessarily mean you can profit from the sale. If the stadium is considered a symbol of what is probably a well defined team image, you might run into trouble.

I’m overly cautious and respectful of other’s rights. If it were me, I would approach the college and ask for permission. The upside of this is that you may well have the best photo they’ve seen, and they might want to use it for promotional purposes. It may be more lucrative to get the official approval and enjoy the benefits of their distribution network by licensing your photo to them.

I am curious as to whether aerial photography is considered a “public place”, if anyone can elaborate.

Well, in Cecil’s column on air usage rights, he cites a 1926 act as saying that

It would seem, then, that aerial photography would count as a public place for the purposes of those structural copywrite laws. Also, the law cited by MinkMan in his first link just says that the building must be visible from a public place, and presumably this stadium is visible from the street, even if it’s not the same view you’d get from your Cesna.