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I would like to make a photo book of murals that have been painted on the sides of public buildings. Would I be allowed to sell?

Columbia, SC |

Would I be allowed to make a sell a photobook or ebook of murals that have been painted on the sides of public buildings? I know I need some form of location release from property owners, but what about the copyright? I would not just show the mural, but the entire building/street scene - so would that violate copyright?

Thanks!

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

The artists who paint the murals ordinarily own the copyright in the mural. Even if they assigned the copyrights to someone else, such as the owner of the building, you cannot include these murals in a photo-book without obtaining a license to do so from the copyright owner. Failure to obtain a license would constitute copyright infringement.

Note that copyright law would permit you to take photographs of a building and including them in your photobook. For example, a photographer can take a position of the Empire State Building in New York and include it in a photobook without approval from the owner of the building or the architect. But your photograph focuses not on the building, but on murals painted on the buildings. And copyright law still protects the murals. You must have a license from the copyright owner to include the murals in your photobook---otherwise you could face an expensive law suit for copyright infringement.

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Posted

You probably do not need any kind of release from the property owners. Public buildings are not generally protected by copyright law and a book about murals would not likely infringe any trademarks. You need a release from the owners of the copyrighted works in your photographs- probably the artists who painted the murals and any other copyrighted object (statue, etc.) that will appear.

You should retain an intellectual property attorney to help you review your book and identify potential problems and how to avoid them.

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Posted

You should contact your own intellectual property attorney to get specific answers to your particular situation.

Generally though, you will need permission from the owners of the murals' copyrights. This might be difficult, if the murals are more like tagging-art than officially-approved, sponsored-art (though some mural taggers are quite famous now, like Banksy).

Best of Luck!

Legal disclaimer: This answer is not legal advice, but is for informational purposes only. My answer to your question does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. Please contact a licensed attorney in your area for competent legal advice.

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