Intellectual Property

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A couple of days ago I received an email accusing me of stealing someone's intellectual property.  Intellectual Property is basically a creation of the mind, and can include things like patents, songs and in this case, photographs.  Normally, if one were to steal someone's photographs over the web, it would involve finding the pictures, downloading them, and then reposting them somewhere else and claiming the work as my own.  However, I have NEVER done anything like that, but that isn't what this person was claiming. 

This person, my second ex (which will now be referred to as X2 from now on), claims that I'm using photos from my own computer, photos that have been on my PC for years, that belong to her.  And she insists that I stop or she will report me somehow.

Some of you may know that I have taken up digital painting.  What I do is use photographs as models for the paintings.  The link given will take you to my portfolio.  And while I'm certainly not Michelangelo, I do think they're pretty good.  And they certainly aren't photographs any more.  If you zoom in, you can actually see brush strokes.

You may wonder then how can she claim these photos as her own, and even label them her own "Intellectual Property"?  Well, the pictures in question were taken during our marriage, and most, if not all, are our own personal vacation photos.   She feels she can claim vacation photos as her own artistic endeavor.  It's somewhat funny being told you can't use your own vacation photos.  Almost as if "you went there, but can't use the memories you created there".  Though I took some of the photos, I'm sure she took some, but who took what photo...well, I don't know. 

Vacation photo from ArizonaPhotography Prints

Even though I felt her "claim" was ludicrous, I had to check into it.  I consulted an intellectual property lawyer and asked him about this situation.  Here is the response:

"Unless this was addressed in the divorce decree then the photos are still marital property and belong to both of you. It really doesn't matter since there's nothing she can do about you posting a picture or painting or whatever. There is no proprietary rights to personal photos of generic scenery.

If she wants to take this to court I would absolutely love to see the judge's face when this came up. This has to be one of the most ridiculous claims I have ever heard anyone make with regard to the division of marital property so I would just ignore the claim."


And since the divorce decree gives me ownership of all property in my possession at the time of the divorce, the pictures are mine.  The film pictures especially, since I have the negatives.  The digital ones are a bit harder to define as "original" since one copy is just like the other.  However, if she has a copy and I have a copy, then I guess, as stated above, we both have rights to the photo.  She can use it as she wants, and I can paint it as I see fit.  That should be simple...

If there is to be a moral to this story, it's be careful when you get divorced.  And if you value your vacation photos, fight for custody. 

Now that I know what is allowed, I can, and will, use any of the pictures I find on my PC as I see fit.  And if someone complains...well, the law seems to be on my side!

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