Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Art on the cheap?

Strapped for cash but still keen to adorn your walls with wonderful works of art? One “ethically problematic” solution posited by the
New York Times is to photograph appealing works of art. In theory there is no problem with this so long as the work is out of copyright (in other words, the artist must have been dead for at least 70 years). In practice, many galleries restrict or ban photography or the shadows on the glass are such that taking a quality image is next to impossible.
Putting ethics aside, problems particularly arise in two scenarios: 1) where the work is still in copyright (i.e. the artist is either still alive or hasn’t been dead for 70 years); and 2) where the work you are taking is a photograph of an old art artwork – for instance an image from the internet or the gallery’s postcard shop.
The former can be avoided by a bit of art historical research (steer clear of the Tate Modern!) and the latter is a bit more complex. In the UK, a photograph of an art work is a protectable work in itself (this is not necessarily the case for all other countries). This means that if you don’t take the photograph yourself, there is a danger that the photographer (or the organisation which owns the rights in the photograph can sue for copyright infringement). This issue arose last year in relation to the
National Portrait Gallery and is likely to arise again in the future…

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