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Author Topic: Scary Copyright story?  (Read 4132 times)

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« on: January 04, 2008, 12:51 »
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This week I learned something interesting about copyright, that I thought I 'd share with you.

We all see photography as art, and it definitely is art, just like painting, sculpture and architecture.  We also know there are severe restrictions when we take photos of art.  However, there are forms of art that are less obvious, like flower arranging, ice sculptures or ... food art. 
 
This is what happened : I had been playing with food on a rainy day with my little nephews, and the results were quite fun.  So afterwards I took a few photos of fruit and vegetables with faces carved in them.  The pictures were really fun and probably saleable. 
Meanwhile I came across a book "Food Play" by Saxton Freymann, who made food carving a true art form and published lots of books about it.  The second page talked about copyright, not only for the pictures in the book, but also for the food designs itself. 
To avoid copyright problems, I wrote an e-mail to Freymann's company, and the answer was loud and clear (but very friendly) : I can create food art as much as I want, but whenever I try to sell something that resembles his designs (even slightly) I will meet his lawyers in court.
Well, I can hardly buy all of his books to check if my radish-guy or pepper-face resembles one or more in his books!
That's bad luck of course, so the microstock sites will have to do without my funny fruit & vegs, but it makes you think, doesn't it?

What if I make a nice flower arrangement, take photos of it and sell them on Shutterstock.  Couldn't there be somewhere in the world a person who specializes in the exact style I used for the flower arrangement, published twenty books about it (unknown to me), who challenges me in court for copying his style?

Suppose I find a "niche" subject of my own, like "flowers with carved faces" - who says there isn't someone who has been doing that for years and is truly famous for it? 
In short :  even if we create artwork ourselves as photography subjects, we are not 100% safe and can still be accused of copyright infringement ? 
Wow, scary idea!


« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2008, 13:38 »
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You can't copyright an idea, like vegetables with faces.  I don't even know why you'd contact them.  Do your own thing and don't worry about them.

« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2008, 13:44 »
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So afterwards I took a few photos of fruit and vegetables with faces carved in them.

The only problem I see is that if the face is recognizable, your will have to ask a model release from the veggies, and if they're not 18 yet, ask a gardian consent from the gardener  ;D

Seriously, if ideas and concepts were copyrighted, we should all pay Yuri Arcurs when we do a shot of smiling dynamic businessmen around a flipchart. IMHO, the only thing that is copyrighted is the actual photos from the book itself.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2008, 13:47 by FlemishDreams »

« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2008, 13:49 »
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What do you expect his lawyer to say? I say go ahead and go your own way with your food art. What if you wanted to carve wood birds? Would you be afraid of some lawyer who might just represent some famous carver you never heard of?
Every artist who's picked up a paint brush to create something will undoubtedly paint something that's been done before. I'm sure you aren't trying to duplicate banana bruise for banana bruise. Use common sense and use your creative ability.

That said I hope nobody will take offense at my using the phrase "What do you expect his lawyer to say?" Maybe somebody famous said those exact words. God help us if there's a lawyer reading this post. javascript:void(0);

« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2008, 13:59 »
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Seriously, if ideas and concepts were copyrighted, we should all pay Yuri Arcurs when we do a shot of smiling dynamic businessmen around a flipchart.

He's hardly the first to shoot people in a business situation.

« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2008, 14:02 »
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That said I hope nobody will take offense at my using the phrase "What do you expect his lawyer to say?" Maybe somebody famous said those exact words. God help us if there's a lawyer reading this post.
I read this post and I'm a corporate * leach" (as my father is fond of saying). I agree, of course the lawyer is going to say that even if he has no foot to stand on.
Here are the rules:
1) don't cut and paste part of his images.
2) if it is a real face or recognizable person then you need a model release for invasion of privacy (not copyright), note real face means actual person not food art version.
3) can't copyright idea
4) don't take a photo of copyrighted material
5) Don't contact another person's lawyer to find out if you could be violating their rights. The answer will be yes, even if it is no. And if it is yes then you just generated fees for that lawyer. It's a lose-lose (and win for the lawyer).

« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2008, 14:13 »
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My initial reaction was also you cant copyright an idea, but the writers of the books would not sue me for playing with food, but for copying (and commercializing!) their copyrighted designs with food.  As they have already filled 10 books with it, it's hard to carve a face in fruit in a way that has not been done in one of their books already, or looks like one of their designs. 
You're right that they cannot forbid me to create food faces, but they claim copyright for the style, not the hobby.

As for YingYangs points :
I didnt touch his images, not even part of it.
No the faces are not recognizable, just funny.
I cannot take photos of his fruits and vegs, as he ate them already  ;D, but I can imitate his style.
And last : my e-mail was to the writer himself, not to his lawyer, and he answered in person.

« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2008, 01:52 »
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....And last : my e-mail was to the writer himself, not to his lawyer, and he answered in person.

Well whether to the writer or his lawyer(s) - he may have sought counsel before replying anyway - I think it would be difficult to phrase the question in such a way that he could be comfortable in saying yes.  I mean if you asked "Does your copyright on the vegetable designs/styles in your book preclude others from making/selling similar designs/styles with vegetables?"  You and/or your lawyers might construe his response as consent/license to copy and sell his designs/styles with some unspecified - possibly minor in his opinion - differences. 

Without seeing exactly what you were talking about he would undoubtedly want to be careful in protecting his rights.

It seems to me this is always tricky for both parties and when one's work approaches the margins of someone elses the decision on copyright violation in the end can only be made in court.    fred


 

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