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Public Building rights?

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Roy SchneiderPublic Building rights?
by on Aug 6, 2012 at 3:14:30 pm

Hi All:
Here is a question. If I am off site shooting a public arena (Madison Square Garden, or Reliant Stadium) Can I use these in a broadcast program. I am working on a Music Video and the artist wants to use exterior shots of several big name Arenas.

Is there any rights issues with this?

Thanks for your input!

Roy Schneider
Long Live Da Cow!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Public Building rights?
by on Aug 6, 2012 at 6:35:43 pm

Likely you'll have problems, as certain buildings, for example the Empire State Building, - have claimed copyrights on their exclusive design, etc. If you were shooting a news doc, maybe not a problem, but for a commercial entertainment production, yeah, better make some calls first. Most expensive place to find these things out is in the edit room, rather than pre-production.

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Tim WilsonRe: Public Building rights?
by on Aug 6, 2012 at 7:16:58 pm

The question is always what the trademark is marking.

For example, ALL buildings after 1990 are COPYrighted, in that you can't build something that looks just like them.

Most building TRADEMARK marks only apply to the commercial re-use of those images. There's no sense in which a public building, including the Empire State Building, can prevent you from using them as a background element. That's explicitly covered under Fair Use.

And yes, there is quite a bit of case law related to using trademarked buildings, the most famous of which involved the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and significantly narrowed the scope of previous landmark/trademark law. This is nicely covered in the article When A Landmark Cannot Serve As A Trademark.

That said, the list of trademarked buildings is loooong. Pretty much any building you can name. In New York, that includes the Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, the Apple Store, etc. Remarkably, I can't find any reference to The Garden being trademarked, and the Stock Exchange only holds a trademark to depictions of the floor.

Seattle's Space Needle, St. Louis's arch, San Francisco's TriMerica building, etc. All trademarked. (Good tip: if it has a company name in it, ie, the Empire State Insurance Company or Chrysler or TriMerica) you can be POSITIVE it's trademarked.)

Do note that many stock photo and video agencies simply don't accept submissions that include these buildings at any view much closer than a skyline. But that relates to depictions OF those buildings, NOT to depictions of scenes with those buildings in the background.

There are really very few scenarios in which you're not okey-dokey...but any advice you get here is worth exactly what you paid for it. :-)

And to be on the safe side, I'd avoid the Apple store altogether. LOL

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW Magazine
Twitter: timdoubleyou

The typos here are most likely because I'm, a) typing this on my phone; and b) an idiot.

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Roy SchneiderRe: Public Building rights?
by on Aug 7, 2012 at 12:07:42 am

Thanks Mark and Tim:
I put a call into the arena's PR folks to get permission.


Roy Schneider
Long Live Da Cow!

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