Creator royalties on art in public spaces

Creators of art displayed in parks and other public spaces have been using assertions of copyright to demand cash from, or play favorites among, private persons and groups seeking to carry on video or photography in those spaces. Aaron Renn: “Any city installing public art should ensure that the agreement with the artist provides for unconditional royalty free pictures and videos, or the art shouldn’t be installed.”


  • Turnabout is fair play. The park could also demand a copyright fee from the artist, whenever he/she displays a photo of the work of art that includes any part of the public space in the background.

  • Sounds like “fair use” to me.

  • I find this funny.

    I thought photographers were artists themselves.

    So, if I take an artfully composed and lit picture of a public sculpture, who owns that? Who is the real artist, the sculptor or the photographer?

    That the question has to be asked means this area of law is far too convoluted.

    (Oh, and the correct, simple, no BS, not overlawyered answer is that the sculptor controls physical copies of their work and the photographer owns the images they take).

  • In Chicago, if you are going to take wedding pictures in front of Buckingham Fountain (the only case I know about) you need a permit and pay a small fee. Which is absurd.

    • cc,

      In principle, I agree with you. It is absurd. Looking at the website, ( it appears that the photography permit is not only for the fountain, but for any location in the Chicago Park District.

      But, please allow me to play the devil’s advocate for a moment……..

      Assume that someone wants to take a picture of a wedding party. They come with lots of people in the party. They set up for the shoot and have ladders, lights, portable generators to run the lights, reflectors, etc.

      Arguably, the parties “take over” of the fountain (or other areas ) denies the benefit of the fountain to the public in general, or other photographers from using the fountain as a backdrop.

      People could start to walk through the wedding shots because that is what people do these days or they could “photobomb” the shots. Members of the wedding party or the photographer’s staff could try to prevent others from walking through the shots or photobombing them.

      The ensuing fight would bring out bridezilla and her dad who wants to kill the people that are ruining his baby’s day in the sun.

      I can see this happening very easily. The same would be true if a photographer wanted to take shots of other areas and hired security guard to prevent people from walking down paths and into their shots.

      The question then is “at what point in tome has the photographer / wedding parties infringed on the rights of others to enjoy the same area and to take pictures? At what point in time does the City have a duty to protect people from fighting in public parks?”

      If we assume that photography is an art form, (and I think it is) and therefore a form of speech, is the requirement to get a permit more of a “time, place, manner” restriction?

      Initially, I was with you and thought of a photographer and a couple taking shots needing a permit was absurd. When I thought about the other problems (large parties, other visitors, people wanting the same vantage point, etc) I began to wonder if the permit was way of controlling the chaos and the dangers to others.

  • That isn’t limited to the Fountain though. Don’t they have a schedule of fees for photography and filming in the parks at all?

  • Does the police department pay a fee to have body cam equipped officers walk thru Chicago parks? If not, why not? Filming is filming after all. And yes, it’s off topic. 😀

    • If you actually bother to look at the link gitarcarver posted, tourist filming and photography don’t require a permit either.

      Other than student projects, which oddly require a permit, all the types of photography listed as requiring permits meet at least one of two criteria if not both.

      1. Publication of the photos is intended.

      2. A group of people (models/people to be in the pictures, and production staff) that will all be in one location for a significant amount of time an is likely to interfere with other users of the park enjoying the same space.

      • Guilty, I didn’t follow the link.