Who owns an image? #buildingpassions

One of the most interesting findings from self-publishing my forthcoming book (short title ‘Building Passions’) on the 19th-century Brunels and Barrys is that sourcing images is complicated!

I could probably write a separate book about this but below are some bullets.

  • My editor quite rightly advised me to start sourcing images early in the process. It has probably taken me about 4 months and there is still one outstanding one to be licensed.
  • People and organisations have different policies for licensing images ranging from free, no hassle to costly and complex! This seems to bear little relevance to the provenance of the image …
  • The internet has taken the lead in encouraging the shared use of free images through Creative Commons and similar schemes.
  • Certain images of well-known privately-owned buildings e.g. the Burj Khalifa and the Shard are copyrighted, but in the case of the Eiffel Tower while you can use a daytime image freely, you can’t use a nighttime one as the electric lighting is trademarked …
  • Non-fiction works are therefore more costly to publish so if you want to spend less, write fiction and include your own illustrations.

I am sympathetic to living producers of genuine artistic objects who need to be recognised and rewarded for their efforts, in order to allow the creative design process to flourish.

However, I am less sympathetic to others outside this category, particularly archives and agencies that charge self-publishers large sums for the reuse of their images, many of which may have outlived their ‘real’ copyright needs.

I think we need to strike a balance here, as with many areas of life. If not, one day perhaps everything we see will be labelled ‘not for reuse’, including ourselves. See this intriguing piece about copyrighting the tattoos of famous sports personalities …

Building stories, building passions

This a quick post to promote Roma Agrawal’s new podcast website called ‘Building Stories’.

I have listened to the first three casts on it which are all fascinating and ‘build’ on the stories in her amazing book BUILT.

I particularly like the one on the Shard, so some highlights:

  • Roma explains how she helped build the Shard and a colleague tells her how the steel in it was first developed in Sri Lanka in the 3rd Century BC and industrialised in 19th Century Britain.
  • Roma was born in India like my brother and I! One of her skyscraper heroes was a structural engineer/architect, born in Bangladesh, who designed the ground-breaking John Hancock Centre and Sears Tower in Chicago. You will have to listen to find out more …
  • The legacy business of my favourite civil engineer (hint: this website is about him!) helped construct the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.

Finally, I’ve called this post ‘building stories, building passions’ because the second part is in the subtitle of the book I’m writing – for my latest post on progress see the previous one to this.