Over the years, I have been repeatedly asked whether an artist can reproduce the image of the front of a house, business or a street scene, without the permission of the land owner(s). Very often, the owner has shown up during the photographing or sketching with a demand for money or for a royalty of any money earned from the use of the reproduced image.

Generally, the rule of law is that the unauthorized " making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs or other pictorial representations of an architectural work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place" is permitted.

It stands to reason, therefore, that if the view of the building is from a vantage point of the interior or not visible from a public place, you could not visually reproduce it. If you take a tour of the inside of a Newport, Rhode Island mansion and take pictures of it, you should NOT reproduce those for photographs for sale without the permission of the building's owner.

You may also have to be more careful if your visual image includes an artwork, such as a mural or sculpture, which is currently protected by copyright, as its mere placement in a public place does not give you the right to reproduce it. Also, if any image includes a business name or a person's image, you probably should obtain releases.

First Published Version, copyright 1993 David M. Spatt


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copyright 1997 David M. Spatt, All rights reserved

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