Copyright isn’t just for music and movies.
As noted earlier, I am in the midst of a career change. I started my life as a professional photographer mostly creating commissioned works under various licensing agreements and for the last decade have been mostly making my living creating self-financed films distributed on DVD under home viewing license.
I have also had some professional experience on the licensee side of copyright. I’ve commissioned original works of music, licensed pre-existing works, and negotiated stock footage rights. I’ve purchased DVDs, CDs, and even downloaded a few song from iTunes.
And of course I watch/listen to a lot of music on YouTube.com
But my experience with copyright and licensing arrangements does not stop with music and images.
I’ve also purchase study-plans from a number of designers. Study plans are something less than full-plans of boats whose building licenses may run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars, usually cost between $10-$50 dollars, and are sold to help a perspective builder determine if a boat is the right boat to make a full commitment to; or simply to study a designers ideas.
In the case of the James Wharram Tiki 38 we are building I find myself on both sides of copyright.
I purchased study-plans for two of his designs, plus some associate study-materials for about $120, decided that the Tiki 38 was right design for our purposes, then paid about $2,250 dollars for plans and the right to build, plus another $100 for a second set of plans to forward to our project engineer John Marples. (One set of plans is conspicuously market “DUPLICATE” so there is no misunderstanding that these plans have been provide for our convenience and do not constitute the right to build a second boat.)
We’ve paid John several thousand dollars to do a structure and stability analysis of the design, and where needed make modifications to the scantlings so the boat meets US Coast Guard requirements for an Inspected Passenger Sailing Vessel. Our agreement with John specifically states that his effort is “work for hire”, which is to say the modifications belong to us. But being a designer himself, and for clarity, John included language in the agreement that the rights to the original design are retained by James Wharram designs. If we were to build another Tiki 38, we wouldn’t have to pay John again for his work, but we would have to pay JWD for the rights to build another boat. (As a data point, a licenses to build John’s 99 passenger sailing cat is about $35K.)
Some of the study plans I have are in PDF format, and I have, while I chatting with one distant friend or another, sent them along so we could both be looking at the same thing at the same time. I’ve even photographed a blue print or two, and sent those along to facilitate a consultation. It’s not uncommon to see portions of a study plan reproduced on a website or blog when a design is being discussed.
So far as I’m aware of, there is no thriving market for unauthorized copies of boat plans. Occasionally on an e-mail list or forum someone will ask if they can build from a book that contains buildable plans. The usual answer is “You can, but you really shouldn’t.”
When I was 23 (1989) I made a 10′ tall, 8′ wide self-portait composed of 6400 small Xerox copies of a picture of Andy Warhol.
This in turn was a technical study for a more ambitious project: similarly sized portraits of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Ford, and Reagan.
The source image for the presidents’ portraits was their official government photograph, and the “cells” were made out of iconic news photographs from their respective administration. (As a child I was fascinated by the Time Life book series This Fabulous Century.)
My advisor asked me, “David, what are you going to do about royalties for the images you’re using?”
“It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission, and besides, I’m not going to shed a tear if a big corporation doesn’t get paid for me to use their photos.” Of course I assumed that any photo that appeared in a book belong to the publisher of the book.
“What if you find out the rights to this Eddie Adams photo belong to his widow and it’s her sole source of income?”
I told him, “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”