Photographs of the Shroud and Copyright

imageColin Berry made an interesting comment about copyright of photographs of the shroud:

But I decided first to google “Gian Carlo Durante”, it being the first time I’d seen his first two names, and quickly came across this fascinating pdf that documents the controversial 2002 restoration. Tucked away inside is a heart-warming sentence that Gian Carlo Durante generously waived his copyright on his 2002 photographic archive, leaving Turin and the Holy See as the sole owners.

http://www.shroud.it/GHIBER-2.PDF

One’s tempted to say more, a lot more, where copyright on photographic images of the TS is concerned. Frankly I’m amazed that private individuals with camera equipment, no matter how respected professionally, were ever allowed to acquire copyright anyway for what is surely a technical operation only. All that was required of them was to make as objective as possible a photographic facsimile with no obvious creative input that would aid further research. (emphasis mine)

Can you even copyright photographs of the shroud?  It seems that in the United States, you cannot. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is my personal opinion).

The U. S. District Court for Southern New York has held that “exact photographic copies of public domain images could not be protected by copyright in the United States because the copies lack originality. Even if accurate reproductions require a great deal of skill, experience and effort, the key element for copyrightability under U.S. law is that copyrighted material must show sufficient originality.”

In other words, photographs of the shroud are probably not protected by copyright. Is this fair? Possibly not. But the courts have said, in one form or another, that the more accurate the photograph the less copyrightable it is. What about contrast enhancements, negative reversals, images produced by the VP-8 Image Analyzer or ImageJ, etc. The courts are clear here, as well; “sweat of the brow” is not a “creative spark” which deserves copyright.

So is the image on the shroud in the public domain?  If it is a work of art by whatever means, it is. If it is not a work of art, well try to argue that in court and try to argue that the question is germane. It’s not.

Online Shroud of Turin Photographic Resources:

BTW: In this cyber age, where is a photograph published for copyright purposes?  For instance, I may think I am uploading photographs from my computer but I’m sometimes just pushing them around in the “cloud.” Globally, servers are everywhere. I don’t even know where they are anymore. I take a picture with my iPhone that is not even stored on my camera and may be on a server in South America today and in Spain tomorrow. Yet it is my photograph.  And we can forget about domain suffixes. Do any of us really think that ABC.tv is a website for ABC Television in the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu?

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