Friday, June 9, 2023

Photographer Steps Into Copyright Fight


Watch where you walk, some sculptors take their work seriously. Jack Mackie, the artist who created The Dance Steps in Seattle, WA, has sued a photographer for taking pictures of his work and profiting from these pictures, a whopping $60. Mike Hipple, the photographer and also from Seattle, said his agency complied with Mackie’s wishes and destroyed the remaining images.

A few things to consider.

One, it seems the piece was created “more than 30 years ago,” so Hipple 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. I don’t believe it’s as such now, but perhaps something for government actors to consider in order to avoid this type of ridiculous situation. For a good counter argument, see Gaylord v. United States. Thirdly, it would be interesting to investigate whether or not there was a written agreement between Mackie and the commissioning party and notice whether or not there was a transference or sharing of the copyright to the sculpture.

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