Friday, January 26, 2024

History of a photograph, history of copyright

As a mystery, it's not quite up with who shot President Kennedy, or even who shot J.R., but Hugh Stephens makes a lively story out of "Who Shot the Last Spike photograph?" on his Substack newsletter on copyright issues.

It's an opportunity for Stephens to look into how photography became accepted as a creative form worthy of copyright protection, with nods to Canadian legal historian Myra Tawfik's work on the evolution of Canadian copyrights -- including her recent book For The Encouragement of Learning.

Photography’s entry into the copyright world was not without controversy. For some it was merely a mechanical process, not worthy of protection. But unlike AI-created works (as opposed to works created by humans with some assistance from AI), photography did and does allow human creators to express and interpret the world around them, albeit using a mechanical device.

I realize that this could be an awkward subject for some of my academic readers, given that Canadian educational institutions increasingly base their budgets on copyright appropriation. But copyright isn't going away -- though it seems the educational "exemption" loophole will endure at least until Access Copyright shuts down and an effective copyright collective can emerge in this country. 

Photo: by Alexander Ross, copyright 1885, long since entered into the public domain.

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