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Architects slam illegal photography

The AIAA demands royalties on all of your outdoor photographs.


The AIAA (Architecture Industry Association of America) has issued a demand for a Congressional Hearing on illegal photography.

Architects are concerned that their intellectual property is being stolen by 'photo pirates' who consider it acceptable to take pictures anywhere they feel without regard for due recompense for their use of copyrighted material.

According to the AIAA there are literally millions of active photo pirates. Typically they will take photographs in public places, ostensibly of friends or relatives, but always in the background there will be examples of copyright architecture. These photographs are then shared and viewed by up to a dozen or more people, often 'innocently' described by photo pirates as 'family members'.

Considering that a single photograph can steal the copyright design of as many as a hundred architectural works simultaneously, the extent of the problem is vast.

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A single photo pirate, within the course of a single year, can commit typically as many as 1.25 million copyright thefts.

The solution, as seen by the AIAA, is to prosecute photo pirates. Obviously since there are so many it would be impossible to prosecute them all, so the AIAA is targeting what they regard as 'major photographers'. Major photographers are identified by their use of digital photographic equipment and can easily be spotted in the street as they hold up their equipment to their eye.

The AIAA has gone on public record as saying that they regard all instances of photo piracy as presenting legitimate grounds for prosecution. Proceedings are already underway regarding a 12 year old girl and her use of a Barbie camera. Apparently its brightly colored casing made the detection of its use a simple matter for the AIAA's representatives on the ground.

Ultimately, the AIAA intend to set up a framework where photographs incorporating copyright architecture can be taken legally. This will involve outlawing non-indoor use of current digital and film cameras completely under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, allowing photos only to be taken using camera-equipped cell phones. Every time you take a photograph, each example of copyright architecture will log a charge against your phone account through a special digitally-encoded reflective panel. The AIAA suggest that this charge should be 99 cents, multiplied of course by the number of copyright works in your picture.

Architecture that is more than 70 years old will be exempt from these charges as it is considered to be in the 'public domain'. The AIAA however is pressing for architecture to be considered 'corporate copyright' and thus be entitled to a term of 95 years.

By David Mellor Tuesday March 7, 2006