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February 2002, Week 4


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Sat, 23 Feb 2002 10:46:53 -0600
TEXT/PLAIN (56 lines)
John Dougill wonders:

> I am trying to obtain copyright from Miramax to reproduce their publicity
> photograph for Iris but am having difficulty getting them to respond.
> Probably my puny self-published work does not warrant their attention.  So I
> wonder if I do everything I can to ask for permission and it is not denied,
> than am I legally able to reproduce?  One sees for example instances where
> publishers state that they have been unable to obtain copyright for certain
> images and invite the owners to contact them.
> Would anyone know the legal situation concerning this?

One of our campus web mavens suggested that, though not ideal, this
strategy would be acceptable for web materials.  Of course, obtaining
permission from various webmasters who may have dissolved into the
electronic matrix could be even more frustrating than dealing with film
producers and distributors, so I suspect it's a riskier proposition for
the "original" images.

This discussion of copyright actually does lead to some interesting
theoretical questions.  For example, our campus copy shops will not
reproduce directly from books or other print sources without
permission, but they will reproduce already-copied pages.  So, if a
person makes a photocopy from a text and then takes it to the shop,
it's no problem.  I suppose that any burden of copyright violation has
been removed from the copy shop by at least one step--to the person who
made the copy.

Still, this legalism does relate to issues of what is "original" and
what is a "copy" that go beyond copyright as such.  Censorship and
"obscenity" are one area.  For instance, taking a cue from one of R.
Crumb's comic books, the creators of SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER AND
UNCUT have an animated photographic cut-out of Saddam Hussein waving
around a cutout photographic image of an erect penis.  So, an image
that would normally provoke an NC-17 rating somehow survived the other
cuts that were made to win the film an R rating.

I have to assume that the ratings board took to heart Saddam's taunting
statement that it is "only a picture" of a penis--not an actual penis.
This in a cartoon!

I'm sure that Walter Benjamin would have had some interesting thoughts
about this.

Don Larsson

Donald F. Larsson, English Department, AH 230
Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN  56001

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