Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Chicago River Tour or Fun with Copyright Law

NBC Tower

Like many people local to an area, I have neglected to do some of the must see activities a tourist would experience. However, a few weeks ago I had family visiting from out of town and we all took a Chicago River Tour. I had heard it is a great way to view Chicago architecture and it most definitely is.
Obviously I snapped any number of photos but I had to resort to the internet to look up the names of some of the buildings.

Not the Sears Tower

One such pair of buildings is the Marina City Towers. These interesting condo buildings have appeared in a number of films and television programs including the Bob Newhart Show, Dark Knight and the Blues Brothers. When first I saw these buildings they seemed outlandish to me but they have since grown on me. I am always amused by the lower level parking garages. Where else can you park and get million dollar river views? I think I'd be obsessing over whether I set the parking brake adequately.

Two Ears of Corn

Careful what you do with your photos of this building, however. It is under copyright. In theory if, say, I wanted to turn my photo into a postcard to send to my friends, I might need to apply to the condo board for permission. Now, I am no expert on copyright but I have read just enough to be wary of violating these copyright laws. I have received a few requests for copies of my pictures from commercial interests and have always refused for fear of getting into vicarious trouble. Now, if the subject of the photo were a tree, there would be no problem unless the tree's owner got back to me. But since I take lots of architecture and city pictures and since all those buildings are owned by someone, I just have to say no.
A few years ago I took a picture of a totem pole in Seattle, Washington and some homeless people started to object to being in the shot. My thought about them is about the same as how I feel about the architecture question. Don't put yourself or your building in a highly touristy, scenic or public location if you don't want pictures taken of it or if you want to absolutely control the use of said pictures. Hypothetically speaking, if I plant my body in front of the Louvre for a month, do I control rights to all photos taken with me in it? In the article I read, sometimes film makers have to edit out certain buildings from skyline shots due to copyright issues. Imagine altering a film of Seattle with the Space Needle omitted or New York City sans the Empire State Building? It just wouldn't be the same.
Read here for more about the Marina City debate.
All right back to the photos.

Wrigley Reflected


Blu said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, although most of my photographs are of forests, I love your images of the city! Bravo.

Leovi said...

Very nice photos and interesting frames. It's amazing that edidicios which are public roads under copyright. Greetings

Steven Dahlman said...

Marina City most definitely is not “under copyright.” You cannot copyright a building. A few years ago, a confused condo board here mistakenly believed they owned trademarks to the name “Marina City” and images of the complex. Marina City Online hired one of the best intellectual property attorneys in Chicago, compared notes with other local landmarks, and proved convincingly that the claims were without merit.

As far as we know, the condo board no longer asserts this claim.

At best, the owner of the commercial property at Marina City – and not the condo board – might possibly own rights to the name “Marina City” but they do not challenge its use by others.

Marina City is one of the most photographed structures in the world and we encourage people to capture its beauty.

We have more info here…

Furthermore, I would challenge you to provide one example of filmmakers having to “edit out certain buildings from skyline shots due to copyright issues.” This is an absurd claim. If you photograph a building from a public space, you are free to do pretty much anything you want with it. It is irresponsible of you to regurgitate these ridiculous, baseless claims by people who are sadly misinformed.

-Steven Dahlman, Editor,

Arti said...

Lovely architecture... The buildings are huge!!
Have a nice day:)

JL said...

Interesting. On my vacation I went to the wine bar in Marina Towers, which is run by a friend of mine.
As for the parking garages? Evidently, Marina Towers are a huge favorite for 'jumpers'. Quite common.
Neither here nor there, but next time you're at the base of the towers, stop into the wine place and order the 'Bleu Monde' cheese. It's amazing.