Who Owns An Image?

May 9, 2011

This blog is very dependent on the reproduction of other peoples work and I try to credit them when I know who is responsible. Often I copy photos and artwork from website where the creator is not named even though sometimes the identity of the originator is only a few clicks away. Nonetheless, I am aware of the possible risks associated with using people’s work without permission and the potential for accusations of hypocrisy in doing so.

Part of my justification is that I use these pictures, either to draw attention to the artist’s work or to comment on it in some way, and certainly there is no material gain for me in this.

An interesting angle on this is found via Fstoppers – a website for professional photographers.  In a video entitled The Stolen Scream,  photographer Noam Galai tells the story of how a single photograph of himself posted on Flickr has become a universal image.

Argentina

Netherlands 

Iran

USA

Noam generously sees this circulation of his work as publishing rather than theft, though he draws the line at people making money out of his work (let alone his likeness). It does raise the question though of who owns an image and does the act of posting it online negate any claims. Noam himself gives the example of an artist not receiving any ongoing gain from a work hanging on the wall of a gallery.

I suspect that it is a forlorn hope to want to share in the profits from the use of work posted online.

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