Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, August 7

Gapers Block

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After a considerable amount of speculation on the Web about the copyright on Millennium Park, the Reader's Ben Joravsky offers some explanation in this week's paper as to why security guards are targeting photographers snapping pictures of the Bean and other sculptures in the Park.

The city has a license agreement with the artists to be the sole authorized seller of merchandise with Millennium Park images, and that's why they've been targeting professional photographers in the park and stores trying to sell notecards with Bean images on them. The business about the security guards claiming that the whole park was copyrighted? Apparently it's a result of some overly zealous legal language given to security guards to hand out to commercial photographers who want to sell Millennium Park images. (BTW, even though the park was paid for by private funds, Ben Joravsky notes that the private donors then gave the artwork to the city, so the park is now owned by the public. How can the city claim copyright on publicly owned statues in a publicly owned park? Oh, I'm sure they'll find some way...)

Update: In response to BoingBoing's query about why the press director is saying that the sculptures' artists still own the copyright, Joravsky says this is true, but that the artists aren't getting any money from the permits that the city is trying to sell to photographers. A representative for one of the artists is quoted as saying, "If security guards give the impression that they are protecting artists' rights, it's probably a lack of understanding." Then whose rights are the city protecting? Apparently, its own right to sell Millennium Park postcards, as city official Ed Uhlir explains in the article: "We're going to have postcards in production, and we intend to sell them where postcards are sold [good plan! -ed.] ... If someone's in direct competition, we'll go after them."

So, to sum up: the city wants to make money off of images of the park (which is completely public property), so they're harrassing photographers in the park who look like professionals (i.e., they use a tripod) and scaring them into buying photography permits by saying that only the artists own the copyrights to the sculptures.... but the artists aren't seeing any money from the city from these permits.

Read a scanned copy of the Reader article here: Part 1, Part 2.

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