On Dec 16, 2009, at 6:32 AM, J- wrote:
Dear Mr. Andrews,
I just saw your blog post about New Topographics and had a great laugh over the Smackdown T-Shirt. We love it and all want one! Excellent work.
However, I also see that you reproduced the New Topographics catalogue in your post. Unfortunately I am going to have to ask you to take the catalogue down. Reproducing it without permission is a copyright violation and in order to obtain proper permissions you would need to contact me (GEH) and all the artists featured. If you were to contact me about it I would say yes, but only if you clear the rights of each individual artist and Bill Jenkins. You are free to leave up the cover if you like.
Now, do you mind if I blog about your T-shirt?
Department of Photographs
George Eastman House
On Dec 16, 2009, at 12:28 PM, Blake Andrews wrote:
I appreciate the kindly worded request and I have removed the images.
I suspected this might come up. In fact part of the reason I went forward with the post was to test the waters a little and see what would happen. I've long been frustrated by the lack of easy access to older photographic material. These books are held like state secrets but with no FOIA capability. The New Topographics is merely the tip of the iceberg, but it was the test case I selected because
1) It is long out of print and hard to find,
2) It shows just a few images by each photographer and thus was less likely to piss anyone off in particular, and
3) Most of those images are already available on the web in various commercial and noncommercial contexts (just do a Google image search for "New Topographics" to find thousands) and so to some extent I was repeating what had been done.
That does not excuse my action. Clearly it was a violation of copyright. But there are thousands of similar violations out there and surely you can't police all of them. And this is a problem that will only grow larger, that is in fact about to explode all over various publishers.
In my opinion the best way for Eastman House or others to nip this in the bud is to take the lead. Presumably you have licensing rights to the material. If you made it viewable online somewhere it could be a wonderful resource. You could charge some nominal fee for access or make it available for free. For anyone looking for New Topographics photos, you would become the central source of material, putting a serious crimp in the various unlicensed images out there. And all of us lowly bloggers could devote our energy to other things besides scraping together old images to share. Instead of spending hours scanning old catalogs, I could spend a second hyperlinking to you.
I have gotten a lot of comments on the T-shirt. It exists only on the web at this point but I can guarantee that if Eastman House produced something similar (using legally licensed images of course) or with a similar tone of irreverence, and sold them through museum stores during the show, they would sell like gangbusters. You are welcome to blog about it.
Thanks again for the notice, and sorry for the copyright violation.