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Attorney Wayne
Attorney Wayne , Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 1506
Experience:  Practicing Law Since 2000
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I want to take my own pictures of city buildings, cityscape

Resolved Question:

I want to take my own pictures of city buildings, cityscape as oppose to landscape and city happenings to sell on my new photo website. I understand that buildings and many popular icons such as the Hollywood Sign are copyright or trademark. Can I take photos of these things and sell the pictures from my website. The end item is pictures that I sell are to hang on wall and nothing else.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  Attorney Wayne replied 3 years ago.
PLEASE DO NOT use the rating system until satisfied. Instead, please click REPLY TO EXPERT to continue our conversation.

Hello. Thanks for contacting us. Pictures of public places, taken from a public place should normally not create any copyright or trademark violation. Trademark can be a bit trickier -- because trademark is not about a specific image, but focuses on a a consumer's belief that the brand depicted either endorses the picture or is the source of the picture.

Sound complicated? Think of it this way: Any cityscape will have lots of trademarked items on display. But if the picture seems more like a product t-shirt, then it has a stronger chance of creating a trademark infringement issue. If its a picture of the corner of Hollywood and Vine, then its not going to be a problem.

As for copyright, unless you are copying someone else's image, its not going to be a problem to take a photo of public place.

I wish you all the best in your effort!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Wayne for your reply. Yes the only thing that I sell on my website is framed photos using my own photography.... all in public places. I was worried that certain icons ..... Hollywood Sign, Golden Gate Bridge might get me into trouble even though it's taken from public places.


There is no other use of the image, i.e. not licensing image to others. I just sell photos of my OWN images to website customers.

Expert:  Attorney Wayne replied 3 years ago.
I know for a fact that the Golden Gate Bridge is publicly owned and there could never be a problem for something that is publicly owned (unless it was a top secret thing -- but you can't shoot those from a public way). The Hollywood sign, even if it was on private land, is visible from the public way.

Look at all the pictures of Boston with its iconic Citgo sign or of NY's with the Empire State Building. In both cases, the names Citgo and Empire State Building have trademarks. But a cityscape that does not give an impression to a consumer that the photo is either endorsed by or an official souvenir of the trademarked icon, is not a trademark violation.

Remember, this does not mean that someone won't try to over-reach and launch a lawsuit anyway. But the chance of winning a lawsuit on infringement grounds for a cityscape taken from a public way is so very timy. It would take some creative legal yoga and make the law look more like a pretzel than an scale!

Again, my best for every success with your project!
Attorney Wayne, Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 1506
Experience: Practicing Law Since 2000
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thanks Wayne,


Awesome response and easy to understand explanations.

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