Monday, December 22, 2008
Open call for advice
Regular B readers know that one of my pet peeves is the inaccessibility of certain photography books. Some books are printed in a deliberately limited run, snatched up by collectors, fall out of print, and from that point on they become relatively inaccessible to anyone without money or a strong library nearby. Jeff Ladd has taken strides to correct things with his Errata Editions series. But even those re-issues lack accessibility at a certain level. They cost money and they will probably fall out of print themselves.
I believe that the best way to increase the accessibility of out-of-print books is via the web. Beginning in January I plan to begin a new blog series showcasing out-of-print books. I will track down books from my collection or from the U of O library that I think are important and under-publicized, and post them page for page on B.
I have chosen the first few books, scanned them, and am in the process of formatting the images. My main qualm at this point is that I suspect posting an entire book without permission is illegal and could open me up for a lawsuit. I have no doubts about the act's morality. I can't see how it will have any negative impact, financially or otherwise, on any photographer. But legally I am less certain.
Does anyone out there in the photo community have good legal advice on this matter? Can out-of-print books be shown in their entirety on the web under Fair Use Copyright law? Any lawyers out there now is the time to be a good Samaritan and pass your legal opinion my way. All advice appreciated.
Posted by Blake Andrews at 2:58 PM
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You have quotation rights but they have limits (I think that the spanish version of a harry potter book was leaked by each individual quoting a certain amount of it and linking to the next). Then, you should check what has happened to abandonware. I think that they were ok if the companies that owned the rights of the computer games had disappeared, and some didn't mind that their old out of circulation programmes were given away. In any case, I'm no lawyer... if you can contact the authors you'd probably get away with it...
Can't give legal advise but would certainly recommend checking whether actions are copyright infringement. We're lucky in Portland to have an excellent legal firm (Duboff firm) that has at least 2 attorneys that have published books on photo law. Check their website and/or books and suspect they would be worth contacting before January...
I'm far from an expert, but coming from someone who works in a book store, I believe it's likely not legal to post the innards of an entire book. Duboff is a good recommendation. I would also try talking to Kohel Haver in town. He works in copyright law and also seems especially interested in the local art community. He would probably love your blog. I know at the book store we're asked to stop people from photographing the insides of books. Your idea is intriguing but I'd be cautious. I'd be interested what you find out if you decide to talk to lawyers.
I think you should write your own book.
Krista, Your post reminded me that just a few weeks ago I was asked by a Powell's employee to stop photographing inside the store. I was photographing people, not books. I've photographed a lot in there before with no hassle. Not sure if the policy changed or if no one ever noticed me before but either way it was a drag.
I can understand the policy against photographing books, since that might lead to unauthorized reproductions which would compete directly with Powell's. What I'm doing seems different because it's completely noncommercial. Because out-of-print books are bought not so much for their content but for their value as collectibles, their reproduction would seem to have no negative effect on the market.
Speaking of the market, I did get in touch with a photo attorney. She proposed to advise me for $285/hr, which I declined. She also referred me to a general information page about fair use. Based on my understanding of that page, I think I am in the clear but there's only one way to find out.
We had a storewide email go out recently about our photography policy. I wonder if that email was in response to your interaction with an employee or if you had an employee fresh from being reminded of the policy. People photograph in the store all the time, which is fine. You just can't shoot employees or customers without their permission. As a byproduct of people shooting in the store you KNOW employees and customers are being shot indirectly. I suspect you shoot more conspicuously than your average tourist. This last email was the first time I realized there was a limit on shooting customers (I knew employees were of-limits without permission). Since Powell's is private property, I suppose they can set whatever rules they want. Mostly though, Powell's is pretty easy-going about photography. I'm sure you've had experience trying to photograph in other stores with more restrictions. I know I have. I once had trouble shooting on the Santa Monica Pier. My guess is you ran across an employee who "cared". And if you were shooting customers, they really were enforcing store policy--though too bad, because it's so harmless. I'll ask someone tomorrow to elaborate on why.
Do give Kohel Haver a try. He helped me with a copyright infringement problem I had many years ago and if any lawyer would be willing to suspend their fee for a quick 10 minute phone call, he would. I see him at galleries--he loves art. He might also work in exchange for a print if you need a longer conversation. He has offered that exchange to me before. Tell him I sent you! He also helped a local guy who puts out the zine Craphound when Disney was going after him. Try a phone call and see what he'll tell you.
Seriously, you should write your own book. I suppose you sort of are with B but I'd love to see you published. I think you have a real talent for writing about photography.
Not that any book prospects of any sort are on the horizon but if I ever publish any sort of book it will be of photographs, not writing.
I think the best way to combat anti-photography policies is to flout them. I was in Powell's this weekend photographing conspicuously. No one hassled me.
Found a great book by David Spears which I'll write about when I get a chance...
My favorite photo book right now is Robin Schwartz
That's a great book but $30 for a little paperback? That's out of control.
Ha! I thought that was cheap!! I like to think of it as compact, not little. Besides, there's chimps involved.
Or are they monkeys?
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