Questions on Law in printing Urbex book on sites without permission
March 11, 2008 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Some friends and I are into Urban Exploration. We're photographers who enjoy this subject quite a bit. We've been considering writing a book of pictures and a few stories of various sites we have done. I am curious if anyone knows the legal ramifications of publishing such a book? The idea is there would be pictures of sites we did not have permission to photograph. These are sites where 'no trespassing' signs have been clearly posted and alternative measures have been used to gain entrance. Note:: No breaking and entering or burgulary methods were used. Available entrances only. This question is on the legality of publishing said book, please no flames or discussion on the legal issues surrounding urbex itself. Thanks in advance.
posted by grahamux to Law & Government (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
These guys had a book published about the very topic - may want to try contacting them and seeing what their experiences were:
posted by Calloused_Foot at 12:57 PM on March 11, 2008

Also, the late Ninjalicious published a zine, Infiltration for years - I don't recall him writing about encounters with the law outside of getting caught by the cops/security. Of course this isn't quite the same as a book.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 12:58 PM on March 11, 2008

You can also try asking people on the forum of this website.

Lots of neat stuff there.
posted by sixcolors at 12:58 PM on March 11, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah, I was kind of hoping someone with some law experience in intellectual property and copyright would know. I know with human subjects, a release must be signed in some cases.
posted by grahamux at 1:01 PM on March 11, 2008

the folks who used to put out infiltration have published a book on the same topic, i would ask around on their foums and see what kind of issues they ran into.
posted by phil at 1:02 PM on March 11, 2008

For privately owned property, you're supposed to get a property release from the owner allowing you to use pictures. There is some info here.
posted by logic vs love at 1:20 PM on March 11, 2008

Finally joined and now get to post.

Not a lawyer but dabble in photography. Property releases are pretty hotly contended from what I can gather but from the sounds of things if you do go and publish the book then you are opening yourself(ves) up for a lawsuit. Now whether the persons suing you have a case I think depends on how good a lawyer they have. Essentially the concept behind suing for photos of property is that you are copying a copyrighted building. And the whole copyrighted building part is what is being contended.

You could also be opening yourself to some potential legal action for your 'alternative' measures of entering the grounds.

See here.

Searching the above blog was pretty helpful.

Hope that helps a bit, good luck.
posted by WickedPissah at 1:28 PM on March 11, 2008

Legally speaking, even pushing open an unlocked door can constitute breaking and entering. Having someone else open the door for you is constructive B&E. I'm trying to figure out what else you might mean by "alternative measures" that would not violate the law.
I tell you this not to attack Urbex -- I don't really care about it one way or another. But it could cause some trouble in trying to publish. Your pictures would probably be considered as evidence of felonies. Just because you think you weren't breaking and entering doesn't mean you weren't. I would think the only publishers who would be willing to take you on would be small, alternative presses. Larger publishers are going to want releases, as logic vs. love points out, and are likely to shy away from the potential B&E/trespass issues.
posted by katemonster at 1:44 PM on March 11, 2008

if you're going to go as far as publishing a book of these places you're not supposed to be, it might be best to consult an attorney
posted by Salvatorparadise at 2:02 PM on March 11, 2008

You can get sued for anything.

If a photo is used as "art," even if sold for tens of thousands of dollars, basically the subject (or the subject's owner) can go hunt -- there have been many court cases on photography-as-art, and damn few of them have the photographer losing.

The other side of the coin: using a photo to sell a product. The case law here is also very clear: get a release, or lose your court case. I think, and IANAL, that a book falls quite squarely in the Art category instead of the Commercial category.

You should, however, check with an attourney, because you are worried and should be reassured.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:48 PM on March 11, 2008

Hmmm I thought you could take pictures of property, as long as its name is missing. That's really unfortunate if we can't.
posted by sixcolors at 5:41 PM on March 11, 2008

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