The poster collection at Les Silos in Chaumont, France, has grown over the last 20 years from the annual poster competitions of the Chaumont International Poster and Graphic Design Festival, by about 2000 posters per year. When the city decided some time ago to make the collection public through an internet poster database, they soon found out that they had to obtain the permission of all the poster designers to publish the pictures, or risk copyright problems. They then realized that this was very time consuming, i.e. expensive, and drafted a standard contract that they planned to send to everybody who had ever participated in a Chaumont competition, asking to hand over the copyrights in exchange for the privilege to be shown in all future Chaumont publications.
Not unexpectedly, this caused an outcry of protest, and 3400 graphic designers signed a petition to the city of Chaumont to reconsider these plans. A meeting took place in Chaumont on March 23, 2009, between 13 lawyers, politicians, administrators, copyright specialists and 3 graphic designers (Alain Le Quernec, Francois Caspar and Jean Paul Bachollet) to resolve the problem.
I am not sure of the outcome, but find it sad that you now need a lawyer to read the fine print in a Call for entries to defend your interests. I also need a lawyer to advise me if the winning posters of the Chaumont competition can be shown on Posterpage with a resolution of more than 300 pixels.
Current copyright legislation, if it is enforced to the letter, will seriously damage poster competitions, exhibitions, publications, web sites, poster research, documentation and the free exchange of ideas. The absurd court case of the Associated Press vs. Shepard Fairey about his Obama poster is just an example. Copyrights will not make the poster designers rich however, as many are made to believe, because every publisher will avoid those designers or their descendants that make life difficult for him. When was the last time you saw a Roman Cieslewicz poster?
Also, the tide may be turning, and a designer has to pay for his posters to be shown, instead of receiving copyright compensation. It has already turned in the art business. Ask any painter (except Picasso etc.) how much he has to pay his gallery, and how much he receives from the copyright institutions.
There will be a discussion of copyright questions at the opening weekend of the Chaumont Festival, on Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 10:00 at the Theatre le Nouveau Relax, 15 bis Rue Levy Alphandery, F-52000 Chaumont.
The two documents linked to above were kindly provided by Jean Paul Bachollet.
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