Copyright the Moon

amolitor

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The most recent Supermoon and the inevitable pictures got me thinking.

If I take a picture of the full moon, a basic full moon on a black background, I hold the copyright on that picture, right?
If you do it, you have the copyright on yours.

As with any photograph, fairly extensive changes can be made to my picture without me losing the copyright on it. Including changes that make it pixel identical to yours, since the pictures are very very close to start with.

Am I missing something? I'm sure I've seen this line of thought before, and I don't remember where, if anywhere, it went.
 

480sparky

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The only time this would become an issue is if one of us sued the other for infringement. And the only decision that would count is that of the federal judge hearing the case (assuming there IS a hearing if it's not thrown out for being frivolous).
 

Benco

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Too late, I got the copyright years ago.

I'll happily settle out of court with all of you.
 
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amolitor

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I think the legal situation is pretty clear, but what makes it interesting is that it directly conflicts with the ethical situation.

Nobody would ever bother to bring it to court, of course.
 

Ysarex

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Suggesting that law and ethics have anything much to do with each other might be where you're running into trouble. That law and ethics are in conflict is hardly interesting as much as it's common place. Just turn on C-SPAN and look at who's making laws.

Joe
 

vintagesnaps

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How is this any different than landmarks like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls or anyplace that over the years people have photographed about a zillion times from the same vantage point? It's your picture of ___, you can copyright it I think as your photograph of whatever, what would be the ethical problem?

You can go photograph the same things that Ansel Adams photographed, in B&W if you want, so you could have a photo that could appear similar (well, maybe, this is hypothetical), but you can't use his original photographs and make and sell the prints as your own work. That's what would be unethical/illegal, to use someone else's photos and try to pass them off as your own.

I didn't try to photograph the super moon, but apparently a lot of people did, so chances are someone's photos of just the moon itself could look about the same as everybody else's; it might be challenging to get a unique photo of the moon without any landscape or buildings etc. in the scene, but I don't know why someone couldn't try to sell/market their own image of it if they wanted.
 
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amolitor

amolitor

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The point of the moon is that, being tidally locked, every picture of a full moon taken is literally identical, except for some fairly minor technical differences which boil down, basically, to the amount of detail captured.

It represents a useful extreme, I feel, for the thought experiment of "what if I edited MY picture to be pixel identical with YOUR picture -- who owns it now?" because that process is relatively speaking pretty easy, in the case of the moon.
 

KenC

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I think vintagesnaps hit on the answer above, which is that you can't use someone else's photograph to produce a copy or an image that is close to being a copy. I don't think anything in copyright law prevents you from making your own photograph of the same scene. In other words, the copyright protects the other person's photograph, not the scene itself. Yes, you'd be making an identical photograph, but the scene is there for anyone to record independently.

One interesting and somewhat related question would be: what if someone arranged some objects in a unique way, like a still life, and made a photograph and you went out and obtained identical objects (let's say some mass-produced items like nuts, bolts, nails, etc.) and arranged them in the same way. Then, could you reasonably be accused of copying the image, albeit "the hard way" by reproducing every aspect of it?
 
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amolitor

amolitor

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That's what the law says, yes.

The point is, is the law an ass? It's fairly silly to have two bit-for-bit identical digital objects, and assert that one belongs to ME and the other belongs to YOU, merely because of some ephemeral trail of edits.
 

Derrel

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I think you ought to turn that mind of yours to focus on a more important question, like, "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin," or maybe the more modern and more compelling question, "If a bear farts and the woods, and nobody's there to smell it, does that fart stink?"
 

peter27

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I think vintagesnaps hit on the answer above, which is that you can't use someone else's photograph to produce a copy or an image that is close to being a copy. I don't think anything in copyright law prevents you from making your own photograph of the same scene. In other words, the copyright protects the other person's photograph, not the scene itself. Yes, you'd be making an identical photograph, but the scene is there for anyone to record independently.

One interesting and somewhat related question would be: what if someone arranged some objects in a unique way, like a still life, and made a photograph and you went out and obtained identical objects (let's say some mass-produced items like nuts, bolts, nails, etc.) and arranged them in the same way. Then, could you reasonably be accused of copying the image, albeit "the hard way" by reproducing every aspect of it?

I think you could be because it is the idea that you would be copying.
 
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amolitor

amolitor

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Now now, Derrel.
 

Derrel

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Why don't you just provide a direct link to your "Supermoon" blog post, and sidestep the pretense, and just tell us how you think that moon images are pointless, and stupid, and that people who copyright images that have the moon in them are all idiots? ;-)

I read your "Supermoon" piece, and your admonition to Just stop,stop photographing the moon you idiot people blog article.

;-)
 
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amolitor

amolitor

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That, Derrel, is a quite different discussion, as you well know! I assume everyone else read that last Sunday, when I wrote it. Why are you so late?
 

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