An interesting Flickr photo and post (h/t Manuel Lora). The Photographer seems to get it. I think–see my comment.
Stealing The Spirit Of The Cornfield
I walked outside this afternoon to find a lovely blue sky filled with puffy cumulus clouds. Nice cool breeze, temperature in the 70s, and my car just happened to be loaded up with all my large format camera gear. So I decided to pull off on a country road and take some shots of the pretty landscape. Nothing’s better than a nice leisurely setup on a deserted road. So I got this photograph of a field and sky, and then I moved my tripod to the other side of the road to take another simple landscape scene.
Whilst under the darkcloth I hear a motor and something pull up next to me. A man in a golf cart is there. Here’s the conversation that followed to the best of my recollection: It is not necessarily word for word, but very close.
“Howdy!” I say
“Is everything OK?” he says
“Yeah, I’m just taking some pictures.”
“Oh, just some landscapes.”
“Yeah, like you know the sky, the field and whatnot. I’m a photographer.”
“So what are you gonna do with it?”
“I dunno, it’s just for fun, it’s my hobby. I’ll probably put them on my website or something”
“So you could sell them?”
“Maybe, but it’s unlikely that I’d sell any.”
“Well, you can’t do that, that’s illegal! You can’t just go and take pictures of people’s land!”
“It’s not at all illegal, I’m on public property.”
“Well my daughter is a police officer, I’ll just have to see about that!”
“I’m not doing anything illegal, I’m on a public street photographing a field. Is that your property? (points towards corn field)”
“And do you have a problem with me taking a picture of it?”
“Yes I do.”
“Okay fine, then I’ll leave.”
He turned his golf cart around and left. I wanted to take two more shots, but I just packed up my gear and left. It really made me mad that some people have gotta be jerks for no good reason. The vibe I got from this guy was that somehow my picture of his cornfield was going to make me rich and somehow he was going to be “screwed”. What I can’t convey in the story is the strong hostile vibe and body language\tone of voice I was getting from this man. I could sense he HATED the idea of me being there.
The photo itself holds none of the back story, it is simply a beautiful scene. But perhaps its beauty lies in the fact that there are no people in it, frightened, litigious people who cannot bear the thought of their fellow man being free to do as they wish. No people who are ready and willing to reach for the guns of the State the moment someone upsets their daily routine. No people who are unwilling to extend property rights to their fellow man. No scared and propagandized people whose only means of expression is to lash out at others.
If this man was a farmer then he knows the value of hard work. He knows the concept of homesteading. He knows the idea of making use of resources to create property where once there was almost nothing. He owns his cornfield because he makes use of it. But these concepts are universal, and they apply equally to the photographer as well. I used resources to capture light reflecting off objects in the world. An image was created on film and later manipulated in numerous ways. My own work has created this property. Everyone else is free to do the same and their photograph will become their property. My property does not negate his property in the least. My photograph does not make his corn wilt, it does not pollute his water supply, it does not kill any of his cows. The non-aggression principle has not been violated. But had I continued, I wonder if others would have?
I like this, but I wonder if the photographer here thinks he has a property right (“copyright”) in the photograph. If so, he is as mistaken as the landowner is about the nature of property rights. Just as the photographer did not commit aggression against the landowner by taking pix of his property, so someone copying the image would not be committing aggression against the photographer–he still has his photograph. The fact that others might copy it, or even–gasp–profit off of it, does not aggress against him.