by Michael Ayers Published 01/06/2010
Is not photography an art form? Musical compositions, motion pictures, paintings, sculptures, writings, recordings, and many other works all claim to share a common field called art. I believe that what I put on photographic paper is just as much of an art as any other media.
Is it wrong to use art without permission? All artists claim to have rights to earn money from the use of their work as well as the right to sue for damages if it is used without consent. Copyright laws, I feel, are the one thing that can protect artistry; haphazardly enforced rules could easily result in the demise of our imaging profession.
Musical works, for example, have many strict copyright laws, a few of which I feel are inappropriately constructed. For instance, why is it that I cannot buy a compact disc at a store and play it publicly for an audience? There is no law stating that someone cannot buy one of my photographs and display that image publicly, is there? Of course, making copies of my image for display is illegal, but in the case of the compact disc, I was playing an original recording in public, not a copy.
As much as I disagree with certain views on copyrighting, the ability to change our laws, is what makes our legal systems unique. In this, the age of electronics, our sacred art form must be more closely guarded than ever. There has never been a time that so many have been able to preserve memories using different media than in the new millennium. This has also opened the door to more and more copying, with and without artists' permission.
At the turn of the century, George Eastman released his Kodak camera, and families everywhere began to capture their own moments on dry film. Wet-plate camera artists cried out stating that the profession was being ruined by amateurs, or conversely, that the Kodak cameras would never catch on. But there was a place reserved for both.
I think that artistry will always win out, even today. In history, it is the greatest of artists who are remembered for transforming society. Pick up any book on architecture and this is overwhelmingly evident. Photographers today are building an infrastructure of professionalism and trust. There is no room for cheap materials coming from the likes of a colour copier coupled with crumbling copyright restrictions.
I recently overheard another professional imager say that he records musical works from compact discs onto his digital video shows for background music. A song might be used about 50 times a year and sold to clients; he claims no one minds if he does it.
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