July 3, 2009

Van Gogh’s paintings as shot by amateur photographers

Filed under: Art,Photography by Branko Collin @ 9:06 am

The Wiki Loves Art contest that I reported about earlier is over, and all that is left is for the judges to declare a winner.

One of the extraordinary things about this contest is that the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam opened its door to amateur photographers. That must have been a frightful decision to take, what with all the paintings worth millions just a camera stand leg away from scratching, so I hope it was a good experience for them.

Painting above is The Harvest (1888), photo taken by Flickr user Pachango. View the 4,500+ contest photos here, or just the 450+ Van Gogh ones here. (I edited the colours into oblivion, but I just could not agree with the red hue that Pachango’s version had, or the yellow hue on the museum’s website.)

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March 13, 2009

Companies to pay for employees’ (already paid for) music

Filed under: Gadgets,Music by Branko Collin @ 10:56 pm

Judge J.H. Huijzer has ordered in what must be one of the silliest court findings of recent times that companies whose employees bring iPods to work, must pay copyright collectives for the music.

In practice that means you’re going to pay several times for the music you listen to. Imagine you’re listening to the radio on your Digital Audio Player. First, the radio station had to pay for buying the medium. Then they have to pay for broadcasting the song. If they burn a back-up to CD, they have to pay for that too. If you bought your DAP in Germany you paid a copyright fee on the hard disk, and now when you listen to the radio at work your boss has to cough up some extra cash.

I wonder why people download their music so often instead of buying the CD. Hm…

The court’s very tortuous reasoning goes like this (Dutch):

4.3. The judge finds that the mere fact that employees are allowed to listen to music during working hours, even on an iPod or mobile phone, means that Suplacon [the defendant – Branko] has an interest in its employees listening to music. After all, happy employees work harder. This means that publication of music as defined in article 12 of the Auteurswet has taken place.

(The Dutch copyright law, Auteurswet, distinguishes between publication and copying, both acts forbidden by the law unless you have the author’s permission or unless you cross the palm of copyright collectives with some silver.)

BUMA, the rights organisation that brought the case, says (Dutch): don’t cry, the judge did not mean it like that, and we’re not going to collect money from companies where employees listen to their iPods. If the judge didn’t mean it like that, then why did he say it like that?

I imagine the next Eddy Murphy movie to be called The Nutty Judge, based on true events. Eddy, let your people call my people, I can have this peach of a script ready in no-time. All I ask is that you pay me upfront, and then when the movie is shown in theaters, and then when it is brought out on DVD, and then just because I feel like it, and then when it’s a Monday, and then when I see three pigeons in a day, and so on and on and on and on.

Via Iusmentis (Dutch) and others. Photo: Universal.

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June 28, 2008

There is such a thing as illegal downloading, says judge

Filed under: Film,Music,Online by Branko Collin @ 4:14 pm

In a case that at its surface did not seem to have much to do with the legality of downloading music and films, a three-headed court in The Hague has declared that downloading from an illegal source is itself illegal (Dutch). The court baffled observers (Dutch) by failing to specify why it would be illegal, other than referring to a three step European Union test that downloading apparently fails.

The Netherlands has an exemption to copyright that says that copies made for private use are not infringing, regardless of whether the author was paid or not. Originally this law applied at a time when ordinary people could not easily make exact copies, and when negotiating a contract with every author about every copy would have been too much of a burden on all concerned. With the advent of the personal computer and the internet as perfect copying and communication tools this law has come under fire, even though studies show that for instance the average musician suffers no ill consequences from downloading.

In order to pay authors for supposed losses they suffer from private copying, the law allows for authors’ organisations to collect levies from users, for instance by having users pay extra for blank media. These levies are then distributed to the authors. This law suit centered on levies: a rights organization was sued by makers of blank media over the way it calculated the height of levies. One of the questions put to the court was: is downloading a form of private copying? If it is not, then rights organisations have no legal right to raise levies for it. That though for some strange reason was not a conclusion the court was willing to draw. If a law becomes so out of touch with the times that even the professionals don’t know how to apply it anymore, what chances do mere mortals stand?

(The three step test is in Directive 2001/29/EC, paragraph 5: “The [private copying] exceptions and limitations […] shall only be applied in certain special cases which do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work or other subject-matter and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder.”)

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