Cameras and other electronic devices with photography and video functions are ubiquitous and online image-sharing options abound. This technology may be mainstream but there remains a great deal of confusion, mis-understanding and misinformation about copyright and image sharing etiquette.
Against this background, in 2011 I was invited to write an article for Quilters Companion magazine setting out some general guidelines for quilt show photography aimed to foster goodwill and harmony in the creative and online communities we belong to.
I take this opportunity to publish an updated version of those guidelines. Alternatively, you can Download Quilt Show Photography & Online Sharing Guidelines in PDF format. You are welcome to copy and share this article if you give attribution to me and link to my website or blog.
Guidelines for Quilt Show Photography & Online Sharing
Attending a quilt show can be an exhilarating and stimulating affair – so much colour, so much talent, so much to take in and remember! Thanks to digital photography and the internet, it is now easier than ever to capture and share images of quilts that have thrilled and inspired. Before you start camera-clicking and publishing quilt photos and videos on the world wide web, there are some important copyright and online etiquette matters to keep in mind.
Australian Copyright Law
Broadly speaking, under Australian law, owners of copyright in “artistic works” such as quilts have the exclusive right to:
• reproduce the work (including by photography and filming);
• make the work public; and
• communicate the work to the public (for example, via email or the internet).
Individual creators also have rights called “moral rights”. These are the rights to:
• be attributed (or credited) as the creator of their work;
• take action if their work is falsely attributed as being someone else’s work or is altered by someone else but attributed as if it were unaltered; and
• take action if their work is distorted or treated in a way that is prejudicial to their honour or reputation.
Thus copyright holders have the right to control whether and how their artistic works are circulated in the public sphere. Furthermore all quiltmakers, regardless of whether they own copyright, are entitled to be acknowledged as creators of their quilts and to have their quilts shown in a respectful way.
There are exceptions to this copyright position that can sometimes be confusing. In Australia, people may use copyright material (without consent) for the purpose of criticism or review without infringing copyright, provided they acknowledge the creator and title of the work, and provided the dealing is “fair”. (Other countries, including the United States, have a similar kind of “fair use” exception.) Whether a person’s use of copyright material is “fair” depends on the circumstances of the case and is open to interpretation by the courts. Also, depending upon the conditions of entry for the particular event, sometimes quiltmakers agree to modify their copyright when they submit their quilts for exhibition. Quilt photography policies vary from show to show and are not always clearly spelled out to visitors.
Against this background, it is prudent to adopt a cautious approach and simple good manners when it comes to quilt show photography. Here are some general guidelines aimed to foster goodwill and harmony.
What to do if Photography is Prohibited
If photography is prohibited – keep your camera packed away and look out instead for any catalogue that is for sale or official images that are available online from the event organiser. If there is a particular quilt that you admire, take a note of the quiltmaker’s details and do some research when you get home. If there’s a technique that captures your attention, make sketches and notes to jog your memory when you go to try it out or learn more later.
What to do if Photography is Permitted
If photography is permitted but the scope is not clear, the safest course is to assume that photography is for PERSONAL use only. This means you can keep the images for your own pleasure and edification but quilt photographs must not be used for any commercial purpose or displayed on the internet (including websites, blogs or online galleries such as Facebook , Pinterest and Flickr) without consent from the quiltmaker.
It is good practice to take a photo of the quilt show label at the same time as you photograph the quilt, making sure that you can easily match the label to the relevant quilt when look back at your photos. The label will give you information that may help you in tracking down the quiltmaker if you’re keen to see more of their work, have any questions or wish to get permission to show your photos online.
Seeking permission is a simple courtesy that does not have to be intimidating or difficult. Often quiltmakers have their own websites or blogs with contact information posted or you may be able to send a message via the relevant Guild. Tell the quiltmaker that you have seen their quilt, attach your photo, and ask their permission to post the photo online with proper credit – that is, the title of the work and the name of the quiltmaker. Most of the time, people are happy to hear that you enjoyed their work and for your photo to be shared online along with a link back to their blog or website (if they have one).
Make it easy for them to say yes by submitting a photo that is well-lit, straight and honours the work of the quiltmaker. Sometimes in the rush and excitement of a quilt show, your photos can turn out blurred or otherwise less than flattering. In this case, rather than posting any photos, you can still express your admiration and enthusiasm by referring your friends and readers to links for photos published by the quiltmaker or by the quilt show organisers or even asking if there’s a photo available that you can share. (Don’t be tempted to copy other people’s quilt images onto your website or blog without consent or you are likely to run into other blog etiquette and copyright issues.)
Conclusion: Make a Positive Contribution to Copyright Karma
After visiting a quilt show, it’s natural to want to talk about it and show others what puzzled, delighted or inspired you. Blogs, Facebook and other online social networking sites are great forums for sharing your excitement. By following these guidelines for quilt show photography, you will not only protect yourself from a copyright perspective but you will contribute to the wellbeing of the creative and online communities that you belong to. By reaching out and asking consent to publish quilt photos with proper credit, even if this is not always strictly required, you demonstrate courtesy and respect and you may just make a new friend!
Disclaimer: This article is general in nature and must not be relied upon as professional legal advice. If you need to know how the law applies in a particular situation, please get advice from a lawyer.
The website of the Copyright Council of Australia is a great starting point to learn about copyright. It includes a wide range of useful information sheets and also offers access to free legal advice about copyright matters if you fit within their guidelines.