Posts Tagged ‘exploitation’

Property Releases

August 19th, 2010

We recently posted a blog about Model Releases.

Reading Jacqui Norman’s August Newsletter to fotoLibra members this afternoon I noticed she repeated her advice not to photograph National Trust properties as they wanted to reserve the rights to themselves.

As far as I know, this “right” hasn’t been tested in law. I’m a staunch supporter of the National Trust, but their unilateral ban on photography of our national heritage does get up my nose.

I’m also a supporter of personal privacy. Not so long ago someone complained because a photograph of his unusual (and ugly) car had been posted on fotoLibra. With the agreement of the photographer, we removed it, simply because it wasn’t worth fussing about. The complainant had absolutely no right to prevent its use, but as he asked nicely enough and we saw no early prospect of a sale we took it down.

The National Trust and other owners of heritage and interesting buildings deserve protection from exploitation. Images of their properties should not be used for promotional purposes without their consent. They shouldn’t be used to endorse commercial products without some sort of fee being paid.

But I absolutely defend the right of people to photograph what they will, and sell those photographs if they can, if they are to be used in an educational, illustrative, informative or editorial function. If you’re publishing a book on Castles, you’ll be including a number of National Trust properties. The book will be about those properties. There is no way anyone should only be allowed to use pre-approved images of these buildings.

It’s down to power and control. Celebs in the pupal stage will do anything to court publicity. Once they achieve imago they need to control publicity: vetting photographs, checking journalists’ credentials, only being photographed from one side.

The National Trust’s position is looking increasingly fragile. It only needs someone with a little spare time and a little spare money to challenge their stand, and I suspect the edifice will go the way of the walls of Jericho.

A recent case in America will illustrate the point. I may say that in this instance I am firmly on the side of the property owner.

Douglass Robinson lives in a startling yellow house of the Painted Lady style in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, fondly remembered by all old ’60s potheads. He’s accustomed to having the house photographed, and he normally puts up with it.

But he finally drew the line when his venerable old pad featured as the solus lead on a leaflet advertising mortgages for an international bank. Sympathetic neighbors asked if he was going to sell, or if he was running into financial difficulties?

So he did what every red-blooded American does in times of crisis: he sued. On seven counts.

And the HSBC Bank (for it was they) won every one of them.

You can read the whole sorry saga here. The blog is headlined “A House’s Right To Publicity”, but surely it should have been “A House’s Right To Privacy.”

HSBC should not have gotten away with it. Apart from anything else, it was discourteous in the extreme not to request permission of the owner. (I can hear the lawyers whispering in the back of my head: “such permission not to be unreasonably withheld”).

American law is based on precedent. This judgement is going to make it harder for property owners to claim visual rights over their buildings.

Unlesse the owners are large American corporations, of course.