Thursday, 6 October 2011

Trademarking heritage

While researching for the local sites of wider importance I found out the fact that the Bradgate Park Trust owns the trademarks for selected ruins. They say that “The Bradgate Park Trust has formal Trade Mark Registration of the names Bradgate/Bradgate Park/Bradgate Country Park, its logo and of a comprehensive range of images and outlines of Old John Tower/Ruins of Bradgate House. The Trust does not permit the use of any of these registered name(s) or design(s) by any third party without its prior written permission. Any third party wishing to use such name(s)/image(s), need to apply to the Land Agent & Surveyor at the Estate Office for a Licence. Action will be taken against any business/organisation/ individual infringing this copyright.” As long as I understand that the entities working for the benefit of the public have to be economically viable and use their assets for their own good, the ruins in this park are part of our common heritage, bequeathed to the people of Leicester and Leicestershire, and part of the body of evidence used by the archaeologists and historians to study our common past. Naturally, as landowners The Trust has an ownership of the area but would they really consider denying a right to publish a book on local history where the park is discussed? Could they ask for money for photographs taken by other people from outside the park that feature the tower? Naturally, they have copyright for the photos they display on their publicity material and have commissioned themselves. The boundaries, however, feel grey and muddled.

Apparently, the English Heritage has sent out letters and e-mails stating that “we are sending you an email regarding images of Stonehenge in your [website]. Please be aware that any images of Stonehenge cannot be used for any commercial interest, all commercial interest to sell images must be directed to English Heritage.” Probably the laws of the country where the photos and the web pages are are to take into consideration as well as there are differences – even inside the EU. Of course, the preservation and maintenance requires money but this definitely raises the question of who owns the past. Cannot a photographer sell photos he or she took and produced if they have Stonehenge on? As a World Heritage site it is recognized to be our common heritage, not just in Britain but in the entire world. Nevertheless, the request seems to have coincided with the funding cuts in 2010.

I do know from my own circle that the Superintendency of Pompeii has the rights to photos of the structures there. This has turned up as an issue when a friend of mine wanted to upload his photo project on one of the houses there onto the WWW. The payments are per photograph and his montage included tens if not hundreds or thousands of photos. Thus, other people could not appreciate his achievements. In some countries there is a distinction between the uses and the scientific ones are viewed differently from blatantly commercial interests. Nevertheless, in the countries where the State owns the monuments, naturally, the official bodies have a right to assess and regulate the work on their heritage. But it is a pity and quite sad when scholarly work remains unseen.

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