Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Propery

Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Propery - Susan M. Bielstein Bielstein is an executive editor for art publications at a university publishers and approaches the question permissions from the point of publishing images of works of art in academic books (scholarly works).

She starts by covering what copyright, and public domain is (which takes some explaining with American copyright law) and what the current state of play is in regards to obtaining permissions from copyright owners and those who own artworks which are now public domain.

The very small margins on most scholarly works and the very narrow field of interest mean that it is becoming more difficult to produce works with images as the cost of the fees associated with the images keeps rising and the owners of the images (even those in the public domain) are becoming ever more litigious about authors not obtaining what they assert as the correct permissions.

Bielstein illustrates all her arguments with examples and images – each image depicted (or not depicted in one case where permissions were refused) and lists how the image was obtained and what (if any) fees to the copyright owner or usage fees where handed over – a handy table at the end of the book summarises the overall costs on the imagery in this book – quite enlightening!

Her arguments, groans and rants are all very clear and seem like common sense to me. The last chapter is dedicated to ideas for making the system of permissions more manageable and Bielstein suggests a certain relaxation on the part of some copyright holders/artwork owners for academic purposes is a good thing and encourages more of the same.

Of course this is an American book, so mostly concentrates on the very odd American system of copyright and permissions, however other systems are covered (e.g. British) where is it is appropriate to do so.

I found this to be a very enjoyable and informative read. Bielstein knows her stuff, can communicate it and makes a good case for simplification of the system of copyright for her particular field. Although the discussion here is very carefully steered towards scholarly works requiring images of art work, it is not inconceivable that such ideas, suggestions, and problems cannot have a wider application.