Matt linked to an interesting article about the ethics of posting “found” material on the Internet. I’ve been puzzling over a somewhat-related issue lately myself. Does anyone know anything about public artwork and whether it can be reproduced online? There are a number of murals in Newtown (where I live) that have caught my attention. Most seem to have been done by random graffiti artists, but a few seem to be attached (literally and metaphorically) to businesses. My first impulse was to post some pictures of these at my site, which has turned into a full-blown “Why don’t I start up a Mirror Project-type site for everyone to post these?” idea. I’m worried that there might be copyright issues involved, though. But that can’t be the case when the artwork’s already been put out there in the public domain, can it? What if I take a picture of myself and the mural just happens to be in the background? Is that acceptable? As long as I’m not making money off it, I would assume that such a website could only be seen as promotional, encouraging people to visit the murals shown and to be on the lookout for public art in their own hometowns. Or is this just a silly idea? All I know is, if you saw the big map of Africa on the side of Newtown’s North African Eatery, you’d see what I mean. Someone worked hard on that. This stuff deserves to be noticed.

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  1. This doesn’t directly relate, I guess, but it is a similar find… have you heard of Found Magazine? It is a website where people just post stuff they found on it. Simple. But BRILL! Like, there will be old photos, where someone bought a camera at Goodwill and there was film inside, so they develop it. Or notes they found laying around. Stuff like that.

    http://foundmagazine.com

    You should look. And maybe you should ask them if they know about what you are allowed to publish or not…

  2. Yeah, they mention that in the article. It’s all about whether or not publishing that stuff is legal. Yeah, I guess I should check ’em out…

  3. Stupes me not reading the article. Who knew? I figged they didn’t know ’em. Yeah, check it out, it’s pretty neat… you do kinda puzzle over the things they have found.

  4. If they are on public display then they are in the public domain.

    In fact if you are the one that presses the shutter release you are the one that owns the pictures that you have taken. Remember the picture will contain elements not in the murals as it is a photo which *you* composed.

    If it was on a building where there were signs saying “no photos” then you would be in the wrong.

    At the end of the day all they can do is ask you to remove it from your site.

  5. I agree with all your points, Martin, but I’m still not sure where I personally stand on the ethics of it. I mean, is posting on the Internet considering “distributing”? Maybe it’s like a video, where you’re allowed to watch it in your own home, but once you start showing it to big groups, it’s illegal. Maybe public art is fair game to look at and photograph, but once you begin to disseminate it in another form of media, then that’s wrong. I need to do some research on this.

  6. Ah… but you aren’t making money from it and you are sharing it with a wider audience than it once had.

    If they didn’t want people to see it they wouldn’t have done. Your ethics are intact.

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