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English Door Knockers


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Is anyone in concertina land a UK solicitor?



I have become obsessed with the door knockers of England. As you you know, I travel to the UK from the USA every year to perform at folk clubs. These gigs of mine are often in small towns and cities, Faversham, Chichester, Lewes, Whitstable, Harwich, etc.



On my off hours I take a walk and have begun to notice the wide range of door knockers and to appreciate their variety and artistry. I've been photographing these knockers and doorways and am considering offering posters of these image for sale on Amazon, Etsy and perhaps even marketing them directly to UK gift shops.



My question is, would I be violating the property owners rights or be liable for litigation or expose myself to difficulty in offering such a poster including photographs of English door knockers for sale? These knockers are all visible from the public way and clearly visible on the external portion of the homes that display them.



Any advice about the legality of my project?


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I am not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure that taking photos when in a public place (including a highway) is not restricted, and the householder could not claim any rights over the image.

 

Wikipedia says: "In general under the law of the United Kingdom one cannot prevent photography of private property from a public place", "Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places",

 

There is now a right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights, which could restrict publication rather than taking of photos, but that really only affects photography of areas that might be expected to be private, like bedrooms or bathrooms, or sunbathing in the back yard. I think door knockers on front doors by definition are not private (they would be pretty useless if they were)!

 

If you really want to be safe, consult a real lawyer, but I don't think it you have a problem.

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The UK has "freedom of panorama", but in some countries the designer of a building has copyright and can control commercial use of the image. This applies to the Atomium in Brussels and the Eiffel Tower at night (but not day - the illuminations are in copyright but the tower itself is out of copyright). There was a recent attempt by the EU to extend this to all EU countries but it was thrown out.

 

This article has some fairly detailed advice for the UK:

 

http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/04/14/photographers-rights-the-ultimate-guide/2/

 

if the knocker is simply an incidental part of the wider picture then in the UK I think you'd be OK. Where it is the main feature of the photo I'm not so sure. The article says "It will usually be an infringement of copyright to take a photograph of a work protected by copyright without the permission of the copyright owner". There is an exception for buildings or statues, but these are intended to be displayed in public and I don't think a knocker is quite the same. However copyright probably lies with the original designer of the knocker rather than the current owner of the property, and if it is antique it will probably be out of copyright.

 

I am not a lawyer. I suggest you investigate this more thoroughly and perhaps take legal advice. Richard Bridge who posts on Mudcat is a musician and copyright lawyer.

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Wikipedia says: "In general under the law of the United Kingdom one cannot prevent photography of private property from a public place", "Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places"

 

Yes, but I think the concern is not the taking of photographs, but offering them for sale.

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Jody has asked only about publishing the photos, but both questions are relevant.

 

  • If he is in a public place, it seems to be clear that the owner of the property cannot stop him from taking the photo. If he goes onto private land to take it, that is a different matter.
  • The designer of the door knocker, if it i still in copyright, may have control over whether the image of it can be published. So far as I can see, the property owner has no say in this, and can neither prevent it nor give permission. However, as previously noted, I am not a lawyer.
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I think I'd probably be slightly annoyed, though not to the point of litigation, if my house had some unique design feature that I was particularly proud of, and I discovered that somebody I didn't know was selling photos of it. On the other hand if they knocked on the door (!), said complimentary things about said design feature and politely asked permission to take the picture, I would happily agree.

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Alex, what you say is a matter of ethics and courtesy, but not (if I've understood correctly) of law. My understanding is that it is the copyright holder of the design who must give permission, not the owner of the property. Having the owner's permission is good in itself, but wouldn't relieve you of the responsibility to get the copyright holder's permission. For that matter, the property owner couldn't sell photos of it themselves without the copyright holder's permission.

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"I have become obsessed with the door knockers of England. " HA! I thought you were going to launch into a rant about canvassers, sales people and religious groups waking you up on a Saturday morning. Now it sounds as though you are in dire need of a support group for unhealthy obsessions. The funnest post I've read on this forum.

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Alex, what you say is a matter of ethics and courtesy, but not (if I've understood correctly) of law.

Yes. I am not a lawyer either. :)

 

My understanding is that it is the copyright holder of the design who must give permission, not the owner of the property. Having the owner's permission is good in itself, but wouldn't relieve you of the responsibility to get the copyright holder's permission. For that matter, the property owner couldn't sell photos of it themselves without the copyright holder's permission.

You could be right, but it does seem a bit counter-intuitive when we're talking about pictures of physical objects. If Jody has a brass foundry in his back yard and is thinking of going into the replica doorknocker business, that would be a different matter. ;)

Edited by alex_holden
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Hi Alex - Nope, sorry. No brass foundry here. I only wish.

 

As to your previous comment:

 

"I think I'd probably be slightly annoyed, though not to the point of litigation, if my house had some unique design feature that I was particularly proud of, and I discovered that somebody I didn't know was selling photos of it. On the other hand if they knocked on the door (!), said complimentary things about said design feature and politely asked permission to take the picture, I would happily agree."

 

I was discovered by residents as I photographed their knockers on numerous occasions. I was greeted with suspicion and curiosity but never hostility. I would explain with a smile and my American accent that "I was just admiring your door knocker. It's a beauty. Do you mind if I take a photo?" The typical response to that was "Oh! Well... carry on then." Sometimes I would end up having extended conversations about knockers, doorways and the beauty and character of their town.

 

The people I spoke with were universally pleased that I was photographing their knockers. I never went into the details about what I was planning to do with the photograph, nor was I ever asked. I figured that using the knockers to ask permission first would disturb folks and what if they were not home? Better to just take the photo and move on to the next surprising knocker.

 

It's amazing what you can see once you start noticing.

Edited by Jody Kruskal
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Do you suppose that Google obtained permission from the copyright owners for every building and artifact that they photographed for Google Streetview?

No, but that is covered by "freedom of panorama". Any copyright designs they include are merely incidental to the overall picture. What Jody is proposing is to publish photos which pick out the design, in this case the door knocker, so the question of copyright does arise.

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